Sunday August 9, 2020 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated August 13, 2020 –
The petition wrapped up with 35,000 signatures, and on August 12 was presented in the BC Legislature].
Editorial insights by Mary Brooke, editor | West Shore Voice News
“Keeping in mind that the current plan for September is to have learning groups sized 60-120 (grades dependent), this plan is contrary to the recommendation of ‘fewer faces, bigger spaces’ “.
That’s the introduction to an online petition which in seven days has achieved almost 29,000 signatures, with a goal of 35,000 signatures.
The petition asks that the attendance of children in BC public schools be optional or voluntary come September. The first-day-back to school for the 2020-2021 academic year is Tuesday September 8 after the Labour Day long weekend.
The BC Return to School plan was released on July 29, as announced jointly by Education Minister Rob Fleming and Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry. The website for COVID-1: Return to School was last updated on August 4, 2020.
Choice will be homeschooling if plan is not changed:
The petition was launched by Edmond Luk, a parent in the BC lower mainland who has two children, including one enrolled in French Immersion who will lose her spot in the program if she stays away from in-class instruction this fall. Luk’s parents who are in a senior age bracket also live in the home. He says his family will homeschool their children if the current BC Return to School plan is kept in place, as a way to protect all family members.
BC plan is contradictory:
Luk makes the observation that the public health guidelines of maintaining 2-metres distance and wearing a mask if that is not possible are not being upheld in the Return to School guidelines.
The learning groups (cohorts) of students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 is 60, and for high school students (Grades 9 to 12) the cohort size is 120. Cohorts include students, teachers, support staff and bus drivers. These numbers of presumed limited exposure are based on only one child in school. Many families have more than one child in the family and in school.
The installation of plexiglass safety barriers, and the use of masks, is not being aggressively proposed by the Return to School plan.
Parents in the west shore have concerns:
These points about the Return to School plan being contradictory and many parents expressing reluctance to participate have already been articulated by parents and others in the west shore for Sooke School District 62 (SD62). See two articles by West Shore Voice News already, on this topic:
- BC Ministry of Health releases Return to School plan on July 29 (July 30, 2020) |
- Provincial Health Officer encourages parents to contact school districts ahead of August 21 with any suggestions for change to the return-to-school plan (August 6, 2020) | This article includes SD62 parent comments, and input from the Superintendent and Board Chair of SD62.
School districts to develop their own plans:
Each of the 60 school districts in British Columbia has been asked by the Ministry of Education to come up with its own individualized plan using the BC Ministry of Health guidelines. The deadline for school districts to respond to the ministry with their plan is August 21, and the deadline to have the plans posted on district websites for parents to see is August 26.
- See Return to School Plan (presently in Stage 2 – i.e. full-time in-class instruction with the implementation of learning groups), last updated August 4, 2020
- Health Guidance from the BC Centre for Disease Control and Ministry of Health, to school districts (PDF dated July 29, 2020)
Critiquing the plan:
“It is irresponsible to require students to return to class at full capacity in September 2020, despite acknowledging that social distancing is not possible,” says Luk in his petition preamble. He adds: “This ‘Plan’ to try and forcefully put our kids back to school on a mandatory basis is extremely irresponsible. This decision is unsafe and will put many people’s lives at risk, especially high risk individuals in students’ households. To make it mandatory is a suppression of parents’ rights to keep their own kids safe.”
One of the key components of the new BC Curriculum is to promote critical thinking, as an essential tool for living successfully in the 21st century: “People who think critically and reflectively are analytical and investigative, willing to question and challenge their own thoughts, ideas, and assumptions and challenge those of others.”
The extent to which parents are starting to speak up about the government’s somewhat questionable performance on delivering public education during an infectious pandemic is good evidence that critical thinking is out there. To what degree the tide can be turned before September 8 is yet to be seen.
Failing an actual change in the plans to meet parents’ concerns, many parents will probably just ‘vote with their feet’ and keep their children home from school. This level of social unrest is probably something the BC Government hopes to avoid.
Premier John Horgan and his cabinet are certainly hoping for success with the overall Restart BC economic recovery plan (currently in Phase 3, last updated August 7, 2020), and getting kids back into schools so parents can go to work is certainly part of that.
Yet, we have a second wave of the COVID-19 infection spread looming (as flu season approaches and weather cools, sending people back indoors into the confined spaces where public health knows that the COVID-19 virus is more easily spread). ~ MPB
Website and contact for Sooke School District 62 (SD62) for public education in the west shore, i.e. Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Metchosin, Highlands and parts of View Royal: www.sd62.bc.ca | email: email@example.com | Phone: 250-474-9800
Petition on the change.org website: KEEP “RETURN TO SCHOOL” IN BC ON OPTIONAL OR VOLUNTARY BASIS IN SEPTEMBER 2020
Comments from SD62 parents about return-to-school, and comments from SD62 Board Chair and Superintendent (West Shore Voice News, August 6, 2020)
Five stages of the K-12 Education Plan during COVID-19 (BC Government)
==== About the writer:
West Shore Voice News editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. is the mother of four grown children who attended the public education system in SD61, SD62 and SD72. Ms Brooke has covered education politics on the west shore up-close at the board level since 2014.