Spring break's over, now what? How B.C.'s K-12 students will learn at home
VANCOUVER -- Since parents learned their kids won’t be going back to school after the two-week spring break, they’ve been waiting for details on how K-12 students will continue to learn at home during the pandemic.
“The Vancouver school district has been incredibly busy the last two weeks preparing for what schooling will look like beyond spring break,” said superintendent Suzanne Hoffman.
“I’m calling it the spring break that never was,” said Surrey’s superintendent Jordan Tinney.
Teachers will not be expected to report to schools in person on Monday. But they are being asked to reach out via email to parents and students, and come up with a plan for distance learning by the end of next week, or early the following week.
“A portion of the learning could be online and may be online for some of our more senior students,” said Hoffman. “For our younger students, it may be more like a package that can be picked up from the school and taken home. But again, we’re letting the teachers tell us, based on what they hear from families saying they need.”
The Surrey school district is also letting teachers decide how to best deliver distance learning to their students.
“Teachers still have autotomy about what delivery of curriculum looks like, so you’re going to see different things from different teachers. I think you will see a lot of stuff start to move online,” said Tinney. “There are lots of providers who are stepping forward and making online resources available for free.”
While online learning may be an easy transition for older grades, it's much more challenging for younger students. “If you have a six-year-old and an eight-year-old at home, then what does that look like?” said Tinney. “Those early learners, the teachers care about them so much. I know they will be doing everything they can to put together packages that are meaningful, bite-sized and staged for them.”
School districts are also being asked to offer some sort of in-class instruction for students whose parents provide essential services and must keep working, like first responders and frontline health care workers.
“We are designing that care primarily for school sites that are near health care facilities. So we are at the early stage, we’re reaching out, we’re surveying health care providers to find out which need care and what does that look like,” said Tinney.
“What I would stress is parents who do work in the health care system should contact their principals Monday March 30th, let them know you’re interested in having that,” said Health Minister Rob Fleming. “Of course it would be a small percentage of the kinds of students who are typically enrolled in the school system, but a critically important one for saving lives and taking care of the overall health of British Columbians.”
Vancouver and Surrey’s superintendents agree school districts have to balance distance learning expectations with the knowledge many parents are working from home, and won’t always be there to assist their kids with assignments teachers give them.
“Certainly we are not looking for parents to become teachers and do the work that teachers have been doing,” said Hoffman. “Parents have a lot of on their hands during these uncertain times.”
“Some of these parents, their jobs are uncertain at this time. They may have lost their job, or worried about their job, or told now they have to work from home. To provide guidance and support to your kids and manage the household as well, there’s enormous pressure on parents in the coming weeks as well,” acknowledged Tinney.
While it’s up to the provincial government to decide if and when the in-class school year resumes, Surrey’s superintendent isn’t planning on it.
“My messaging to our district is we’re in this for the long haul,” said Tinney. “If we if we think this is a two- or three-week measure, I think it’s a mistake. I think we need to be looking eight, 10, 12 weeks out and preparing like it is the long run. There is no clear end on the horizon right now.”