The B.C. government aims to have students back in school full-time for September 8. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media - FIle)

‘Cautiously excited’: SD67 prepares for return to school

“We put our trust in her (Henry) and I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing,” says SD67 chair

Administrators in School District 67 are ‘cautiously excited’ to welcome students back into classrooms in just over a month’s time.

This comes after the B.C. government announced yesterday (July 29) they are aiming for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 to be back to school full-time in September – but parts of the classroom will look much different.

Sept. 8 has been marked as the return-to-school date for the 2020-21 school year. Many students have been home since schools in B.C. were shuttered in March due to COVID-19.

The government announced yesterday students will be organized into “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission. Students will be assigned to groups of up to 60 for younger grades and 120 for high school.

READ MORE: B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

“I’m cautiously excited. I absolutely understand the need for students to get back into the classroom. And I think we’ve got really good protocols in place, and strategy presented by a doctor; the evidence shows, she (Dr. Bonnie Henry) knows what she’s doing. We put our trust in her and I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing,” said SD67 Board Chair, James Palanio.

He anticipates things may change between now and September, however he’s glad the basis of a return-to-school plan is in place.

The board chair stressed the importance of kids seeing each other again in the classrooms.

“My daughter is 15 years old, her whole life is her friends. And not to be able to interact with them was very obvious that you could see the struggle,” said Palanio.

The separated learning groups, Palanio explained, will help each local health authority better contact trace, if a problem with COVID-19 does arise.

He further explained changes to curriculum may need to come with this new plan, which could include modifying year-long courses to be semester-based programs, in order to keep students separated more easily.

Just how the local schools will welcome students back could change by the city. As the days count down to school starting again, SD67 will be working closely with Interior Health to monitor local infection rate and limit risk of exposure as much as possible.

“The districts are going to work with our local health officer, our Interior Health contact, which our superintendent is connecting with likely now,” said Palanio on July 29.

“It’s going to be a team effort between the district and our local health officer. So yes, it could be different here as opposed to Kelowna which has had a little bit of an outbreak… that health authority has their finger on the pulse of the most current cases… they will direct us to adjust as required.”

The chair believes eliminating the virus may not be an option, so instead they must figure out a way to best handle it. And this, he says, is a good strategy to do so.

SD67 will be one of many districts receiving part of the $45.6 million, allocated by the province to schools to ensure adequate and regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces. Schools will also be increasing the number of available hand-hygiene stations and optional masks.

READ MORE: 41 more COVID-19 cases in B.C., alert for Kelowna night club

Families can expect to hear from their local school district or independent school in the coming weeks with specific plans for how learning groups will be scheduled, as well as updated health and safety guidelines.

Final details will have to be submitted to the ministry and posted online no later than Aug. 26.

READ MORE: Kelowna COVID-19 reporting strategy shifted due to ‘broad community transmission’

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

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