In record numbers, Central Okanagan parents were turning to remote learning for their kids this school year. (File photo)

In record numbers, Central Okanagan parents were turning to remote learning for their kids this school year. (File photo)

COVID-19 fuels Central Okanagan remote learning expansion

Enrolment for K-9 in eSchool program climbs from 40-50 to 700

The Central Okanagan Public School eSchool remote learning program has rapidly expanded due to the COVID-19 safety concerns.

While the ministry of education responded to parents’ concerns raised this summer for an enhanced remote learning option similar to what was offered in June of the 2019-20 school year, it left school districts scrambling on the fly to meet what was a deviation from previously stated ministry policy.

The result was the Central Okanagan School District eSchool program for Kindergarten to Grade 9, the average number of students grew from 40-50 annually to 700. The program is also offered for Grade 10-12 and adult learning students.

The youngest student enrolled is four, the oldest is 57.

Among the initial challenges were finding workspace to accommodate the hiring of 23 additional eSchool teachers to provide remote learning classroom instruction and followup with students.

“The teachers and staff have been very supportive to help adapt to our situation very quickly,” said eSchool district principal Jordan Kleckner told the Central Education Board of Education at the Oct. 28 school board meeting.

Cori Nicolai, a Grade 1 teacher hired for the program this fall, said communication remains the biggest challenge between teachers and students under a remote classroom learning formula.

“It is an adjustment for teachers and for families. But we are all doing something new that is very important,” Nicolai said

Board of education chairperson Moyra Baxter added the public should understand eSchool is a school district program, noting she often encounters people who mistakenly think the program is administered provincially by the ministry of education.

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The several energy-efficient features of the Canyon Falls Middle School has won an award presented by FortisBC.

The Efficiency In Action Award (medium commercial customer category) recognizes a reduction for the school of natural gas use by more than 12,000 gigajoules annually, which is equivalent to the annual natural gas use of about 140 homes in B.C, and also reduced electricity use by about 6,700-megawatt hours, the equivalent of the annual electricity use of about 600 homes

As well, proceeds from a FortisBC rebate were used to purchase solar panels to decrease the school’s carbon footprint even further.

Harold Schock, energy and sustainability manager for FortisBC, said Canyon Falls Middle School is one of the lowest energy consumer schools across the province.

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The school district continues to not use chemical pesticides as a pest management tool at school sites.

The district will continue supporting a proactive and preventative approach to managing noxious weeds, invasive plants, vegetation and pests on all of our sites, (landscape or structural), says a staff report.

“Integrated Pest Management is a long-term program that reduces the reliance on pesticides and can lead to a reduction in their use,” said the report.

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Two Central Okanagan school parent advisory councils will receive a $50,000 loan from the school district to pay for the installation of new playgrounds.

Chief Tomat Elementary and North Glenmore Elementary will receive the loans for the projects.

The ministry of education awarded a capital spending grant of $125,000 for each playground, but in order to make each accessible to physically disabled students, the actual cost is $200,000.

Besides the school district loans, the school students, staff and parent advisory councils have worked on fundraising initiatives.

Board of education chairperson Moyra Baxter said there should not be a funding difference between ‘a regular playground’ and one with universal access, which she noted should be the standard cost funding baseline for all school playgrounds.

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