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SD62 Back to School Plan focuses on safety and flexibility

High school classes will be taught one at a time, for five weeks.

Tuesday August 25, 2020 ~ LANGFORD | SOOKE | COLWOOD

by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends

With a plan that will have some classrooms looking different during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, including sanitization stations at entrances and children playing in different groups on the school field, schools in the Sooke School District 62 (SD62) are ready to open their doors for students and staff to in-class learning.

Staff go back on September 8 and 9 for preparation of their classrooms and adapting things to meet the required health and safety procedures. Students will return September 10 and 11 for orientation to the new protocols. Full return to school begins September 14.

Under the new plan, students will be divided into learning groups sticking together throughout the school term or year and primarily interacting only with each other. New health and safety measures will improve sanitization and reduce school congestion in common spaces.

The plan is now posted on the SD62 website, here is the direct link: https://www.sd62.bc.ca/node/1020

Health and safety priority:

“Health and safety and honouring student choice are at the foundation of our plan,” says Ravi Parmar, SD62 Board Chair. “We knew staff and families had questions, so we wanted to implement measures that would build confidence and meet the strong guidelines set by Dr. Henry and the Provincial Health Office.”

SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson says the entire school community is putting their trust in parents, students and staff to stay home if they feel ill.

washing hands
Frequent hand washing is an important way to prevent the spread of viruses.

The health and safety measures outlined in the SD62 back to school plan for 2020-2021 include:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Added sanitization stations
  • Hand sanitizers in all portable classrooms
  • Physical distancing for students outside of their learning groups
  • Mandatory masks or face coverings in high traffic areas where physical distancing cannot be met (middle & secondary schools, school busses). *Exceptions will be made for people who cannot wear masks for medical reasons
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting of schools, classrooms and high touch areas
  • Designated entrances, floor markings and/or signage to address traffic flow
  • Limitations on assemblies and other gatherings
  • Visitor access only for people entering to support activities that benefit student learning and well-being
  • Isolated rooms should someone fall ill while at school
  • Below learning group maximum at secondary level
  • Quick contact tracing through the learning group model

Class sizes and schedules:

Learning group sizes and schedules are customized under Stage 2 of full-time instruction in SD62 during the pandemic.

Elementary and middle school:

Students in elementary and middle schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will return to full time in-class instruction in their own classroom groupings. Two classrooms may join together to create learning groups of no more than 60 people that will take their recess and lunch together, or PE class potentially.

Students remain in class all day. This serves two main goals of uninterrupted education and also supporting parents who may need to return to regular employment during working hours.

SD62’s 23 elementary and middle schools are distributed throughout Langford, Colwood and Sooke but serving a wider population that also lives in Highlands, part of View Royal, and in Juan de Fuca (East Sooke, and west of Sooke up to Port Renfrew).

Secondary schools:

EMCS, school exterior, Sooke
Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) is an SD62 high school in Sooke. [West Shore Voice News – January 2020]

It’s in SD62’s three high schools where there is a large difference in the education delivery model. In a 1/8th model for secondary students (Grades 9 to 12), students will attend each school day during either AM or PM for one course at a time, for approximately five weeks.

“Not only does the 1/8th model drastically reduce the number of people in a cohort, it also reduces the number of people in the school at any given time thereby limiting the number of people in common spaces” says Stinson.

“Outside of their AM or PM class, students will have the remainder of the day for self-directed learning – either at home or on-site where they can receive additional support or access resources.”

Teachers will have one class in the AM and one class in the PM. Same group everyday, to a total of 30 people.

Stinson says there has been considerable success with this delivery model during summer classes in past years. It allows students to focus on one subject area, go in-depth, and get more detailed support as required.

This arrangement has also eliminated the need to change any timetables, so that students are still continuing on their chosen path of learning with courses they selected for 2020-2021.

Students can remain in the building for “additional resources” but are otherwise expected to be working on assignments at home in the half-day that they are not in class. The material will be “fast-paced” in this arrangement, said Stinson.

SD62 high schools are in Langford (Belmont Secondary School), Colwood (Royal Bay Secondary), and Sooke (Edward Milne Community School).

Enthusiasm:

“We are ready and look forward to their arrival,” said Stinson about welcoming students back to class.

Masks for additional safety:

girl, mask, school, outdoors
Returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic: face masks required in various but not all settings.

Masks are optional at the elementary school level. In middle and secondary schools face coverings will be optional within the classroom (for teachers and students) but must be worn in common areas like hallways where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

“Every staff member will be supplied with two reusable masks,” Stinson said today. Middle and secondary students will also be issued two masks. Masks will be made available to students in elementary grades as requested, the superintendent said.

Transportation to school:

SD62 school bus in Langford [May 2018 West Shore Voice News file photo]

In something of a throwback to earlier times, the SD62 Superintendent encourages parents to bring their children to school by their own means, as an alternative to use of the school buses.

Busses will still be running. The pre-COVID usage level was 4,700 students on buses daily across 34 standard routes plus accessible routes. “We have been connecting with families, to see if they’re still interested in using the bus, but we are encouraging parents to transport students themselves,” said Stinson today.

SD62 is creating new bus routes based on revised ridership. Students will need to sit in assigned seats as a way to “help us to manage distancing on the bus”, said Stinson. This helps with contact tracing if necessary, he said.

Buses will be disinfected after each run. Students will need to wear a mask on the buses. Drivers will wear masks or possibly face shields.

Elected trustees are available:

“All trustees are available to engage with parents. Trustees always out there engaging,” said Parmar, adding that it’s a large district encompassing Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Highlands, View Royal and Juan de Fuca.

sd62, trustees, municipal election 2018
SD62 trustees being sworn in for 2018-2022 (from left): Bob Beckett, Dianna Seaton, Margot Swinburnson, Bob Phillips, Wendy Hobbs, Ravi Parmar, Allison Watson [West Shore Voice News file photo 2018 / Mary P Brooke]

Trustees in the Belmont Zone (for residents and taxpayers of Langford, Colwood, Highlands, and View Royal) are Ravi Parmar (chair), Bob Beckett (vice-chair), Wendy Hobbs and Dianna Seaton.

Trustees in the Milne’s Landing Zone (for residents and taxpayers of the immediate Sooke area and Juan de Fuca west of Sooke) are Bob Phillips, Margot Swinburnson, and Allison Watson.

The SD62 contact information page is a place to start.

Information available on the SD62 website:

“Information is being sent home to parents as well as more details about SD62’s back to school plan can be found on the SD62 website,” it was stated in a district release today.

Parmar said today that SD62 staff worked straight through from July until now (when most are usually on vacation) to prepare this plan for parents, students, teachers and families to have information in advance of the start of the 2020-2021 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is very clear that SD62 leadership has worked diligently to address the concerns and anxieties of all stakeholders in the education community, and Parmar and Stinson today said the district will continue to be flexible and adaptive.

===== About the writer:

Mary Brooke, editor, West Shore Voice News
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends editor Mary P Brooke has been covering the news of SD62 up close at the board level since 2014. Her children attended schools in SD61, SD62 and SD72 over the years.

===== Links:

SD62 main website

SD62 Back to School Plan

BC Centre for Disease Control – COVID-19 data

Inflammatory reactions to COVID-19 in children (BC Children’s Hospital)