Majority of students will not return to class until Jan. 10. (Black Press file photo)

Majority of students will not return to class until Jan. 10. (Black Press file photo)

UPDATE: SD73 confirms staggered return to classes

There will be no instruction next week

School District 73 superintendent Rhonda Nixon confirmed in a press release Thursday afternoon (Dec 30) that the return to school after the holidays will be looking a little bit different.

Students were expecting to return to the classroom Jan. 4 from their holiday break, but, earlier this week Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered that all classes will instead begin Jan. 10 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I was relieved to hear that this phased start in January is related to the need for preparation time for school and district leaders to prepare for enhanced safety measures and not a strategy for managing COVID outbreaks,” said SD73 board chair Heather Grieve.

Children who have exceptional needs or specialized learning supports and children of health care workers will return on Jan. 4 as planned, however. The remaining children will return to class one week later.

SD73 later provided more information about who can send their children to school starting Jan. 4:

– students with disabilities an diverse abilities

– students whose parents work in the health care system

– students whose parents are other essential workers, as school district capacity allows

A government list of essential services can be found here. Those seeking more information are urged to contact their child’s school principal.

“More information about plans for learning continuity and for enhanced measures will be made available to staff and parents once we have had the opportunity to review and discuss them,” noted Nixon. “Schools will be communicating with parents and families about what to expect upon return to school on Jan. 10.”

The school district noted many of the safety measures previously implemented will continue, including daily health checks, staying home when sick, wearing masks that fit well, limited time in crowded locations, proper respiratory and hand etiquette and maintaining distance between one another.

It did, however, announce additional “enhanced safety measures” noting key changes:

– Reinforcing the already implemented measures;

– Arranging classrooms for maximum space between students and staff;

– Limiting visitors to the school to those that are supporting activities that are of benefit to student learning and well-being, such as teacher candidates and meal program volunteers;

– Reducing crowding at transition times such as staggered start and stop times, breaks and lunches;

– Holding student and staff gatherings virtually rather than in person;

– Practices and individual games are permitted, in line with guidelines;

– No spectators or audiences;

– Pausing school tournaments.

“School District 73’s board of education holds staff and student health and safety in extremely high regard amid the changing COVID-19 landscape,” the press release reads. “Throughout the pandemic, the District has, and will, continue to work directly with Interior Health and follow the guidance and orders put in place by the Provincial Health Officer.”

Approximately 14,500 students attend schools in School District 73.

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