Students in choice programs, out-of-catchment schools face dilemma if homeschooled this fall
MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. -- As the start of the school year quickly approaches, some parents are faced with a difficult decision: whether to homeschool and how that may impact their kids’ chances of returning to their original schools.
It’s a dilemma Miranda Tupper, a Maple Ridge parent, is facing.
She said the current school restart plan doesn’t limit class sizes, and she’s doubtful that proper physical distancing and good hygiene will be maintained.
“There's no way to actually properly distance, especially six-year-olds,” Tupper said.
She is leaning towards homeschooling her son, but that means they’ll be giving up their spot in their preferred school.
“We don't fall in that catchment, technically; if we do pull him there's a very high chance we cannot get him back into that school,” Tupper said.
She said they prefer to send their son to the out-of-catchment school because it’s in an older neighbourhood with fewer students. It’s also close to the at-home daycare the family uses, which does school pick-ups and drop-offs.
“I think that parents should have a right to pull their children, if they feel that's what's safest, without risk of losing their spot when all this is over,” she said.
Michelle Brassens, a Vancouver parent, is also not comfortable with the province’s current restart plan.
She’d like to see a mask mandate, reduced class sizes and options for online learning.
“I think that restaurants have more strict rules about what they need to do to comply with safety than schools do – why are restaurants being treated differently than our kids?” Brassens asked.
She is currently working from home and will likely homeschool her kids for health reasons.
“I’m immune-compromised,” she said. “I had pneumonia earlier this year, so I have permanent lung damage. I don't want to send my kids back to school … (My daughter) could potentially lose her French Immersion spot and that's not what we want. We want her to be able to stay at the same school that she's been at for the past six years.”
It’s an issue being highlighted by a petition called “Freeze BC Student Placements.”
“In order to enroll in a supporter homeschool group, (parents) need to unenroll their child from their current schools and choice programs,” the petition reads. “French Immersion, Montessori, Outdoor, Year-round, out-of-catchment and other choice programs will suddenly have openings that usually have wait lists. Many parents are having to pull their children and will lose their spots.”
The Ministry of Education is encouraging parents to register their children as normal as it works to build confidence in its restart plan.
It says any concerns about enrollment should be directed to school boards.
“If a medical professional determines that a student cannot attend school due to their health risks, then the school district will work with the family to review alternative learning options for the student, which may include providing assistive technologies to help that student learn remotely.”
Tupper believes the province should provide more guidance to the school districts.
“The province isn't taking accountability for the situation, when really it needs to be a provincial decision, and they need to be directing the school districts,” she said.
The school year is scheduled to begin Sep. 10.