VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver School Board is trying to give parents and students a clear picture of what they can expect when they head back to class on Sept. 10.
On Wednesday, during a special summertime board meeting set to review the district’s restart plan, the VSB shared a proposed plan for schools that is being guided by the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Health Office requirements.
Students will be expected to attend school every day, but learning groups for secondary students will be limited to groups of 120.
“To keep to the 120 learning group limit, while still offering all course options for students, the secondary schedule will operate on a quarterly basis,” a release from VSB reads. “Students will take two courses every 10 weeks, through a combination of in-class and remote learning.”
According to District Associate Superintendent Pedro da Silva, the challenge found within the quarterly base schedule was supporting students with different learning needs.
“So we created a new session that’s called a ‘flex session’. And this could operate with linear courses, semester courses, or programs,” da Silva said.
“It will also support courses like yearbook, trades and Advanced Placement courses as well as programs such as International Baccalaureate and skills programs, and other unique course offerings,” the VSB release reads.
Knowing some families do not have access to WiFi or computers, the district recommends schools create designated spaces where students can have access to Wi-Fi and technology.
“This would also keep students in school if they’re not attending a class in session,” da Silva said.” We’re hopeful that this would at least try to bridge some of the gaps.”
Meantime, elementary school students will be divided into learning groups of up to 60.
“This number, 60, includes students and adults,” District Director of Instruction, Deena Kotak Buckley said.
Buckley adds that since classes are also good places to socialize with others, learning groups will be made while keeping in mind who students are friends with.
“While we do have more flexibility outside, we still want students to maintain these learning groups for our health and safety,” she adds.
Some elementary schools will have staggered pickup and dropoff times, as well as staggered lunch and recess breaks to help allow for better social distancing on school grounds.
To help with the transition, the VSB said all classes will use Microsoft Teams even with in-person learning in case students will need to study from home again.
Parents with elementary school students can expect school administrators to contact them with specific details about school schedules, “Including gradual entry for kindergarten students as well as about health and safety orientation sessions for students and their families.”
Families can also expect to hear from their child’s school the week of Aug. 24 with additional information on the district’s elementary school return.
Health and Safety
As for students’ and staff’s health and safety, VSB Deputy Superintendent David Nelson explains there are five key areas from most to least effective.
“The first level of this hierarchy is public health measures,” Nelson said.
These measures involve preventing large gatherings, making sure students and staff stay home when sick and if there was an exposure, “We’re able to effectively and quickly trace contacts and inform people who may have been exposed.”
Environmental measures will also be needed to be put in place, which will include enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces and ensuring there is no high traffic in common areas to avoid gatherings of staff and students.
Administrators will also be asked to enforce the establishment of cohorts, learning group sizes, practicing respiratory act etiquette around coughing and sneezing, and ensuring that staff and students regularly wash or sanitize their hands.
“These things will be actively taught to students and reinforced by staff on a regular basis throughout the day,” he said.
Personal Protective Equipment will also be provided to students and staff.
“Recently, the district placed an order for enough masks to provide to reusable masks to every staff and student in the Vancouver district.”
The VSB plan still needs to be approved by the Ministry of Health.