Students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will have the option of returning to class as of Monday.
However, classes will look much different than they did before COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill.
In a letter to families, superintendent Sylvia Russell wrote that she is looking forward to welcoming students back to the classroom, and assured everyone many changes have been made to protect the health of safety of both students and staff.
From June 1 to 24 (to July 21 for students at Kanaka Creek Elementary), families will have the option of sending their children back to school for part-time in-classroom instruction.
Kindergarten class sizes will contain no more than 10 students, primary grades will have no more than 11 students, and intermediate grades will not exceed 14 students, Russell explained.
Students in kindergarten to Grade 5 will be in class for only two days of the week, while those in Grades 6 and 7 will receive only one day of in-class instruction.
They will be put into two groups. The first group will attend school Tuesday and Thursday and the other will attend Wednesday and Friday. Grade 6 students in a combined Grade 5/6 class will only attend on Tuesday.
But, teachers and instructional support staff will also be continuing their support of students and parents with remote learning.
So, Monday will be designated a day for teachers to plan out lessons and help students who are continuing their education remotely.
Students in Grades 6, 6/7, and 7, will attend class on Monday and – only if enrolment exceeds 14 students will a second day of class be implemented.
Secondary school students will be able to attend two half-day sessions per week from 8:30 to 11:10 a.m., and they will be organized alphabetically in multi-grade groups.
A list of health and safety measures are attached to an online letter from the superintendent.
Parents are not to send their children to school if they are sick, only staff and students are allowed to enter the building, and handwashing will be a must as soon as a student or staff member enters the building and will be done frequently during the day.
Children are being asked to avoid physical contact with their friends, and not to share personal items or food.
Schools will be cleaned once a day with high touch areas being cleaned one additional time during the day, Russell explained.
There will also be increased spacing between students in classrooms, no physical contact sports, and no assemblies or large gatherings.
And teachers will be encouraged to participate, as much as possible, in outdoor education.
A petition on the change.org website, started May 19, has 2,387 signatures from people across the province who would like the provincial government not to resume in-class learning until September due to what’s described as the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
Some of the people who signed voiced their concerns over the push to finish the school year.
“Feeling like an under-valued guinea pig. The plan is vague and the risk is great,” wrote Jacquelyn Irvine.
“The government’s insistence that children do not pass along the virus is so sketchy. Please wait until more studies are done to keep us safe,” wrote John Stephens.
And Julie Silva simply wrote, “too risky.”
However, in her letter to parents of elementary school-aged students, Russell reminded parents that they could still chose to continue with remote and at-home learning, but elaborated that their child’s teacher will have less availability on days they have in-classroom responsibilities.
“In-school learning will look different as we return, and I know it will take all of us some time to adjust to this new reality,” said Russell. “That said, we will work to ensure we make the experience as positive and engaging as possible for our students.”
In-classroom learning for children of essential service workers, students with disabilities and diverse abilities, plus students requiring additional supports will continue to be available five days a week, confirmed the superintendent.
The final month of the school year is especially important for secondary school students and encouraged parents to connect with their child’s teacher, counsellor, school principal, or vice principal about assistance or supports available for the completion of assignments and other requirements for class.