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Small learning groups, quarter semesters part of B.C.'s finalized back to school pandemic plans

Last Updated Aug 27, 2020 at 10:54 am PDT

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. school districts will contact all families to share safety plans and confirm whether children will be attending classes in September, or if they require online options.

The goal of the education ministry’s finalized school restart plan, released Wednesday, is to maximize in-class instruction, while still keeping students, teachers, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The updated plan still suggests limiting learning groups to 60 in elementary and middle schools and 120 at the secondary level, as well as daily health self-assessments, outdoor and online learning opportunities to aid in physical distancing, and visual cues for traffic in places such as hallways. Plastic barriers will be added in other places, such as libraries and front desks.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said schools with larger populations will offer a blend of in-class and remote learning, while others will stagger pickup and drop-off times, as well as classroom breaks and lunchtimes.

All 60 school districts have finalized individual plans.

“The majority of school districts, almost 70 per cent, are moving towards a quarterly semester system,” Fleming added.

Students will study two courses every 10 weeks, or one course every five weeks, so everyone can stay in the classroom with the same teacher for most of the days, he said.

The plan aims to keep cohort groups as small as possible — 30 in one single block for grades 10, 11 and 12.

“Students will spend most of day in regular classroom setting with their class,” says the report. “Students will remain within their larger learning group during unstructured times, like recess and lunch.”

Fleming also expects school districts to be flexible regarding students who, whether for health reasons or otherwise, do not return to classes.

“We understand that parents and caregivers are looking for more options. And this is something we’ve been discussing in great detail with our stakeholder lead steering committee and education partners for the past several weeks,” he added.

“Based on these discussions and the interest and ideas shared, it is my expectation — as a minister of education — that school districts will be flexible. They will work with families, to provide options to keep children connected to their school communities. And that’s why I’ve directed school districts to contact all families in their school communities to share their safety plans and to confirm if their child is attending school, or if they require a remote online learning option.”

READ ALSO: B.C. to get up to $242 million in federal funding to safely reopen schools

Fleming said every school district has been given the ability to be flexible and find options that work for families.

“We’ve extended the authority to all school boards to flexibly offer remote learning programs to students within their districts and local bricks and mortar schools. And we provided districts with the ability to expand their local distributed learning programs to include additional grades and services to students and district schools to meet those local needs.”

He added Internet access has been upgraded for all schools in the province, and the province will continue to provide licenses for Zoom so all students have a secure platform for real-time video conferencing.

“We have now over 2,000 curated curriculum learning resources available for educators and we’ve developed materials, and a webinar series, hosted by experts to support teachers and those who are serving students remotely,” Fleming said.

“Regardless of what platform education is delivered, in-class learning — or remote learning — supporting students with curriculum content, and social and emotional well-being resources is our top priority.”

The plan still requires masks be worn by staff, middle and secondary students in high-traffic areas and inside classrooms with limited space.

Fleming said there’s been no decision yet for $242 million the federal government announced for B.C. earlier in the day.

However, there are plans to hire more custodians, he said.

The first week of school, starting Sept. 8, will be dedicated to orientation. Students are set to return to school on Sept. 10.

In June, 200,000 students returned to the classroom in B.C.

“But 400,000 students did not,” Fleming said.

Read the full return-to-school plan:

K-12 Restart Technical Briefing August 26 2020