'A dry run in June': How the short return to school will shape September
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- It’s the last week of school for nearly 200,000 kindergarten to Grade 12 students who chose to return part-time to B.C. classrooms to finish out the academic year. But the three weeks of physically distanced learning in June may have been more helpful for schools than students.
"I think the lessons learned are that schools can operate safety under the health and safety protocol developed with WorkSafeBC and provincial health," said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “I think there was a tremendous amount of value to have what the premier referred to as a dry run in June."
During the summer months, the ministry will meet with teachers and other stakeholders to create a number of different schedules and protocols for the start of the next school year. How many and how often students go to class will depend on COVID-19 numbers and the risk of a second wave in the fall.
"We were still in an emergency situation in June, but we do have the opportunity now to do more careful planning for September because teachers need to be able to go into school in September knowing the plan is a sustainable one,” said Teri Mooring, the president of the B.C. Teachers Federation. “For example, what does a foods class look like? What does a music class look like? What does work experience look line in this dynamic for high school students?"
Mooring expects parents will learn in August what the post-Labour Day school plans are.
"We are not anticipating it will be voluntary, for example. We are anticipating more students will be in classes in September," she said.
The principal at Boundary Elementary in North Vancouver, who saw a much higher rate of students return to the classroom than most schools, says the three weeks of in-class learning was eye opening.
"If you want to call it a trial run-- was it successful? Yes, I felt it was extremely successful," said Tim MacLeod. “What we saw with the children back in the building is they were happy, they were engaged."
As for physical distancing in the classroom?
"It wasn’t a big deal. Usually our schools holds around 370, 380 kids and we have anywhere from 70 to 120 in the building at any time now, so it's easy to manage in a school this size,” said MacLeod.
“It's nice that we’ve had this time under our belts to know a little but more of what to expect,” said parent Cynthia Mistal whose son is in Grade 4 at Boundary Elementary. “A lot of common sense issues: washing the hands, not touching the face, are ingrained in these kids now.”
“It will be interesting to see what happens in September. I think there’s a chance this could be the new reality we have to deal with for the next year, two years,” said Chris Gagan who has a daughter at Boundary.
While he’s planning for a return to normal schooling next year, MacLeod knows there’s a very good chance that won’t happen.
“I know the district is preparing themselves for some type of different look for September, and knowing that I’m part of that procedure, I’m expecting to get a callback early,” said MacLeod, “And that’s okay, we want to make sure September is a nice start for the students.”