Wednesday April 15, 2020 ~ GREATER VICTORIA & WEST SHORE
by Mary Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR ~ West Shore Voice News
The Chairs of three school districts in the south Vancouver Island area have emerged now one month after the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, with their first public statement.
A full statement “to families” by the Chairs of SD61 (Greater Victoria), SD62 (Sooke), and SD63 (Saanich) boards of education has been issued today April 15.
The closure of schools in BC was announced on March 17 by Education Minister Rob Fleming, in response to an order from the Provincial Health Officer. Physical distancing as required during the COVID-19 pandemic was seen as not possible in an active classroom-based school system (whether in the classroom, on school buses, or during other school activities).
Students in Greater Victoria and across BC were already on spring break when the school closure was announced. The last day of classes ahead of spring break in SD61, SD62, and SD63 was Friday March 13, 2020.
Teachers in BC were given the spring break period to be ‘off duty’, meaning that the revision of instruction delivery was not required of them until March 30.
Within the last two weeks, a constellation of changes have taken place in, around and beyond schools in terms of instruction, support for the children of essential workers and students with special needs, and various adjunct services provided by schools to low income families, such as meal programs.
This week, being Education Week, and so far with no update from the Minister of Education, finally on Monday April 13 an opinion-editorial was issued by Minister Fleming, saying that “BC’s education professionals meeting each new day with tremendous innovation, teamwork and perseverance”.
The letter from the school board chairs is addressed to families, but schools essentially serve the entire community… businesses, employers and a wide range of service are supportive to, in service to, and/or affected by the school system. Everyone in the broader community is impacted by the operation and policies of schools.
====== Here is the full statement:
Chairpersons of SD61, SD62 and SD6 issue joint statement on education impacts of COVID-19
“Since the suspension of in-class instruction in all schools due to COVID-19 was announced, we understand families may be feeling some uncertainty around their child’s education.
Today, as the Chairpersons representing the Boards of Education for the Greater Victoria (SD61), Sooke (SD62) and Saanich (SD63) School Districts, we are writing to assure families that we are working hard to secure educational opportunities for over 40,000 students.
We have been collaborating with the Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, to provide continuity of education for all of our students and prioritizing the services required to support children of essential workers and our vulnerable students who may need special assistance. Many of you have questions around remote learning, care for students, transitioning grades and a whole host of other important topics, and while we don’t have all the answers today, we are committed to finding them as quickly as possible to give you some certainty in this new reality.
We understand that each of you face unique challenges and that everyone -parents and guardians, students and soon to be graduates- have questions. We want you to know that we hear you, we stand with you, and we know that together, we’ll get through this.
To our parents and guardians: more than ever, we need your support. While school districts can’t recreate the full learning experience your children get in the classroom, we are committed to getting meaningful remote learning coordinated as soon as possible. Take this time to enjoy your families, find fun teachable moments, and talk to your children about how they are feeling as today’s stresses will likely weigh heavily on them. There are resources on our school district websites to help support those conversations.
To our students: we know some of you really miss school and the connections you have there. It’s important to keep in touch with your friends and family via text, email or phone calls; this will not only help you through tough times, but it will help them too. The world needs good citizens now more than ever, so remember to be patient, kind and helpful. Know that this isn’t forever, look out for one another and take care of yourselves. For those of you who miss learning, don’t worry, your teachers are hard at work getting set to teach you in completely new ways!
For our grade 12 students: we know your anxieties are high right now. You’ve spent most of your life getting to this point and aren’t sure how these circumstances will affect your future education, or how your accomplishments will be celebrated with important rights of passage such as graduation. Just remember that all graduating students–here in B.C., Canada and around the world–are feeling the same way. You are not alone! All is not lost, we are finding a path that will work for you. We will celebrate your achievements.
In B.C., we are truly privileged to have our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan, to help guide us through this crisis. Like many of you, we watch the daily updates and remain optimistic that our collective efforts are making a difference.
As Chairpersons, we want to recognize all of our staff for their unwavering commitment: from our educators who are reaching out individually to families, to our facilities and custodial staff who are diligently ensuring our spaces are clean and safe, and our support, operations and Board staffs for keeping our education system running. We are grateful for everyone’s hard work and dedication.
Your child’s safety and education is our priority and you can count on us to have them at the forefront of all our decision making. While we transition to remote learning, remember that learning happens everywhere, and our connections to others matter most. We are looking forward to welcoming students and staff back into our schools as soon as it is safe. Until then, in the words of Dr. Henry, “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”
On behalf of the Boards of Education that we represent, we thank you for your continued support. Keep safe and stay well.”
- Jordan Watters, Board Chair of School District 61, Greater Victoria – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ravi Parmar, Board Chair of School District 62, Sooke – email@example.com
- Timothy Dunford, Board Chair of School District 63, Saanich – firstname.lastname@example.org
====== West Shore Voice News editor Mary Brooke has covered school board politics in the west shore since 2014.
Here is Mary Brooke’s editorial “BC public school system carries on through COVID-19, morphing into something new” on the impacts of COVID-19 on education in BC — the first such piece before any of the school districts or even the Minister of Education came out with a statement
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