The province’s Education Minister announced that the Ministry of Education had approved all 60 school districts back-to-school plans.
The Quesnel School District released its plan, following guidelines from the provincial health officer and Ministry of Educations’ COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Sue Ellen Miller, the superintendent of the Quesnel School District, said that not too much will change from when they were open in June with their focus on health and safety.
“We are just going to continue, and it will be enhanced. We are really going to focus on making sure that the buildings are clean and disinfected. We keep working on the really important skill of handwashing with all of our students,” she said. “They’ll be additional markings throughout the building like floor markings and posters, to help students understand that traffic flow.”
Students will be split into learning groups. As for when students are in class, the district has moved into Stage 2 of their back to school plan, with cohort sizes of 60 for elementary and middle schools, and 120 for high schools.
Miller said that students in elementary and high school would notice some differences.
For elementary students, break and lunchtimes will be staggered in schools to reduce hallway, playground, and common area interactions.
“Around 20 students in a class, but they may be grouped with another class as the bigger learning group. Students will spend most of the day there, and all of their instructional day just with their classroom teacher,” Miller said. “If there is a kindergarten class and a Grade 1 class, those two classes will become the learning group.”
Middle and High school students will see the number of classes they take changed. Instead of the typical four classes over 20 weeks, students will take two classes over a 10-week semester.
“One in the morning, and one in the afternoon,” Miller said. “The difference will be that they will be in a learning group and that learning group will be less than 120 students. That group of kids will be considered their bubble.”
“Students will be organized into classrooms, and within those classrooms, you will have some students in with their learning group, but there may be a second learning group in that room,” Miller continued. “If those two learning groups are in the same room, they will have to be physically distanced. That’s the way we are going to move forward is really trying to make sure classrooms allow for the learning group students to work together.”
Staff and support staff will not be counted as the 60 or 120 in the learning group and will be required to physically distance from students.
Miller noted that there wouldn’t 60 or 120 students in one class.
“For most of the day, the kids will be in that homeroom class with 25 other students, but when they go to their electives, they will be part of a larger learning group,” she said. “Never at any time in one class would there be more than 30 students.”
She added that for students taking specialty courses, they will still be offered just in a physical distance way.
Parents will be responsible for provided daily health checks for their children, with staff responsible for providing daily health checks.
If a case of COVID-19 is suspected or detected, Miller said that they would take direction for the region’s Medical Health Officer.
“They are the person that will let us know if there is an outbreak, or if there are isolated cases and they will direct us on how to move forward,” he said. “They will do the contract tracing, they will contact people, and they will direct us on what we are supposed to do. If there is a greater outbreak in the community and in the province, the Ministry of Education will decide if we stay at this Stage 2 or we will move back to Stage 3 or 4.”
Miller said that for parents, staff, or students feeling the anxiety of heading back to school, they are working hard to ensure that they have the best health and safety practices.
“We want them to understand; if they have concerns that we will work with them around their own children or just giving more information if that’s what necessary, we also want them to know that.”
She continued that she feels that sending the kids back to school will be good for them.
“Children’s anxiety is a huge concern for us. We know there are reasons why the government and the public health officer have said it’s good for kids to go back to school because we know how important that socialization, peer engagement, and their social-emotional development is,” she said. “Kids are often feeling isolated, so we know those things are really important, and we are going to work on some of those health check-ins with kids’ well-being and making sure that we can create a calm and safe environment so children can go home from school feeling happy and safe.”
In terms of how prepared the school district is for back to school under these new circumstances, she said that she feels confident in its ability.
“In June, 200,000 students and their teachers were in school and there no cases of COVID detected through the school system, so I think the piece of that says we practiced the health and safety, we created plans, we did work with students around the return to school and what that looks like in terms of washing their hands and what it looks like around trying to eliminate physical contact, and maintain some physical distancing,” she said. “We felt quite good about the work of teachers, but we felt good about the work of students. Students seem to understand and respect the rules, and so we could tell that they were learning those things not only from their teachers but they were learning them from their homes. Families have been practicing those good COVID-19 practices, and we think that is one of the reasons why we think we’re prepared.”
She added that if parents have any concerns, they should reach out to their school principal.
For more information on the back to school, plan, click here.