SURREY (NEWS 1130) – We are expecting details Thursday from B.C.’s education minister on planning for the return to school in September, when COVID-19 should be far less of a concern than it was the same time last year.
For some parents, the wish is for the plan to be more proactive than reactive.
The District Parent Advisory Council in Surrey, the province’s largest school district, has a simple message: they just want schools and children to be safe.
“I think most parents are hoping that school looks somewhat back to normal. I know parents are anxious to send the kids back,” explained Rani Sanghera, who speaks for the council.
“But I think they also would like the same safety protocols in place. I think … everything that we’ve been asking for — better ventilation, handwashing stations in portables. I mean, those are just basic needs that should be there, regardless of the pandemic.”
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) June 16, 2021
Overall, however, she says parents seem to be feeling “better” about sending their children back to the classrooms for the upcoming school year, given vaccination rates.
“As a parent, I feel safer. My twin boys have been home all year, they didn’t go to school last year. But I feel more confident sending them back because I feel that we have a better understanding of variants, unless the Delta variant or any other different variant comes across, I think school should be looking almost back to normal,” Sanghera told NEWS 1130.
When it comes to vaccinations, teachers and staff in the Surrey district were among the first groups to get the jab. In May, the province announced it would begin offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children 12 years and over.
Meanwhile, Sanghera understands some parents may still have hesitations, even with most COVID restrictions on track to be lifted in September. She hopes safety protocols in classrooms will remain in place to help ease any worries, and that schools will have a plan should there be any bumps in the road.
“Be one step ahead. I think a lot of parents are feeling that the Ministry was doing a lot of catching up this time around, so they’re hoping that over the summer they’ve looked at different ways [COVID-19] could affect kids and their learning and be on top of that,” she said, pointing to various instances of “catch-up” in the beginning.
“And I think that’s where parents were really frustrated with the government, with the district,” Sanghera noted. “They had all summer last year to figure out what could have gone wrong and figure it out, but it always felt like they were trying to catch up, and trying to get the mask mandate done. They finally did that. And then they were trying to get other procedures in place and finally did that.”
Surrey was one of the hardest hit districts when it comes to COVID-19 exposures and cases in the classroom. An assessment earlier this year revealed schools could do more to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The district has reported exposure notices consistently since September 2020 and Surrey’s superintendent shared on Friday, June 11 that, for the first time in the current school year, there were no alerts to share.
My best COVID tweet of the year. Today’s info from our partners @Fraserhealth awesome news. #sd36learn #inittogether @Surrey_Schools @whiterockcity @CityofSurrey may the trend continue pic.twitter.com/NiKa32a5Ml
— Jordan Tinney (@jordantinney) June 12, 2021
Sanghera says she and other parents hope the province and school districts have learned to be more proactive over the past school year and want to see an open line of communication.
“Talk to the professionals,” she said. “They don’t want their children to be in a situation where they’re in any way in harm, or where they’re trying to play catch-up. You’ve got the summer, and the parents are hoping that in the summer that things are resolved and looked at so that their kids’ studies aren’t interrupted.”
She says parents would also like to see more options for continued remote learning.
B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC School Trustees Association President Stephanie Higginson, and BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils President Andrea Sinclair are set to provide an update at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
-With files from Tarnjit Parmar