Editor’s note: This story was published to the web on Aug. 21. At the time of publication, SD73 had not released their back-to-school plan. That information is to be made public on Aug. 26. An update will follow in the next edition of the Times.
As the days continue to get shorter, and the nights a bit cooler, it feels like summer is coming to an end. And the end of summer means its back to school.
But unlike years past, it isn’t “the most wonderful time of the year” as joked about in commercials on TV.
This years’ back-to-school will be like no other. After the COVID-19 pandemic put a stick in the spokes of spring break, locking down communities and closing schools, health officials across Canada are saying it is now safe to open school back up as many provinces, including British Columbia, began to re-open mid-summer.
And while the Ministry of Education, Premier John Horgan and the provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have been providing updates and information about what going back to school may look like and the protocals that could be in place, many parents have expressed concern about safety and some have even expressed their kids won’t be going back at all.
Rose McArthur plays a big role in her 10-year-old grandson’s life as he lives in Clearwater with her for the school year. She said she won’t be sending him to school in the fall, not just because he has asthma and other health concerns, but because he told her he was scared to go.
“He says, ‘I ain’t going to go to school…because it’s dangerous out there,” said McArthur. “You also have to really consider the mental and the emotional part of that child after this has been going on. What is going through their mind?”
Other concerns McArthur has include the influx of people into Clearwater, as well as the testing of teachers for COVID-19, ensuring classrooms are properly cleaned and the size of the learning groups. She is also concerned for her grandson’s overall wellbeing.
“If it’s going to affect him emotionally, I’m not going to send him back,” said McArthur. “He is terrified.”
Many parents have taken to Facebook groups to find other like-minded individuals when it comes to alternatives in education. Comments responding to a post on the Clearwater Info Board group on Facebook are mixed, with some still undecided, others choosing an alternative route and others stating they simply have no choice because of work or other responsibilities.
Rowan Borneman is one of the parents who is still undecided. She is leaning towards sending her six-year-old son to school, while keeping her 14-year-old home and registered through the school district’s online and distributed program Kool.
“My youngest is six and he has ADHD and he’s really, really active and he’s really missing his friends,” she said. “I think, for mental health, emotional health…I just feel like he needs to have some interaction and it’s probably a really good thing for him to take direction from somebody other than (his) mom.”
She added her 14-year-old is quite intelligent and would easily adapt to the Kool program. Most of his socializing happens online, keeping in touch with friends on the coast. So, she will most likely be keeping him at home.
Her biggest concern, however, is the kids bringing the virus home as she has medical issues that make her more susceptible.
“You never want to see your kid that ill either,” said Borneman.
Many parents, including Borneman, feel there is a lack of information right now about how the school system will work with COVID-19 protocols in place.
Trish Smillie, assitant superintendent for SD73, said the Ministry of Education recently published their and the final Education Re-start Plan for SD73 will be presented to parents, staff and the community Aug. 26.
When trying to make a decision for the upcoming year, parents should be researching every avenue available to them, while also speaking with the school’s teachers and principals before making that final decision, said Smillie.
This includes the back to school option, online and distance learning and homeschooling.
In-class learning and the online program (such as Kool) are through B.C.’s education curriculum. The homeschooling route, however, is an alternate form of schooling that is outside the provincial education system. Students who homeschool are not eligible to receive a B.C. Dogwood graduation certificate.
“I know there’s been some confusion with parents about distributed and online learning versus homeschooling, kind of using those names as the same and assuming they’re the same, but they’re actually quite different,” said Smillie.
After Sept. 1, parents are encouraged to speak with the principal of their child’s school to have a discussion about what type of education they would like to pursue, whether or not it be in the classroom.
“We want to work with parents closely to make sure that there’s good communication,” said Smillie.
She added the first week of school (Sept. 8-11) will be an orientation week for both teachers and students so everyone is on the same page about health and safety, as well as new protocols, such as the new learning groups.
The first two days are for the teachers. On Sept. 8 and 9, teachers will be calling all parents to have a conversation and provide any start-up information they may need as well as answer any questions parents might have.
The following two days (Sept. 10 and 11) will be for the students. Half of the students will attend on one day and the remaining, the next.