Just over a quarter of students in School District 8 returned to schools for in-person learning in June.
Superintendent Christine Perkins said attendance averaged 25 to 27 per cent. That’s slightly below the provincial average of about 30 per cent, which was announced after the first week of classes last month by the Ministry of Education.
Perkins said concerns about the pandemic kept some students at home. Other parents said they were satisfied with online learning options, or were keeping children home because they were also more available.
“We would have the whole range from the online is really working for us [to] coming back to school has been great because they’re no longer afraid to come back in the fall,” said Perkins.
Students across B.C. were given the option of a partial return to classes on June 1. Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools offered families a two-day per week option in order to keep capacity limited to 50 per cent on any given day.
Grade 6-to-12 schools meanwhile were reopened daily to only 20 per cent of students, who were required to make appointments with instructors.
Perkins said whereas the experience was mostly positive for younger students, those in high school were required to make more adjustments while also trying to complete assignments.
“Early on, it was quite overwhelming because they felt like they got a lot of work and they weren’t able to connect in the classroom,” she said, adding the experience gradually changed, especially for Grade 12 students.
“They were able to go back to school to connect with friends, to wrap up some of their courses in a positive way and experience their virtual grad.”
Even though classes were limited — younger students returned to school just eight times over four weeks — Perkins said there is value in having had the month to work out safety protocols. Arrows have been taped in hallways, sanitizer stations have been set up, and staff understand how their schools need to operate with COVID-19 in mind.
Premier John Horgan has said he hopes schools return to 100 per cent in-class attendance in September. Perkins said if that happens, it will still include health provisions like physical distancing and hand washing.
“If we had waited till September all that would have been a surprise. It would have been a lot of stress,” she said.
“I think what we did was manage to alleviate tons of stress across the entire district and also make it more comfortable for people coming back in September.”
Perkins said she expects the education ministry to announce specific return-to-class plans for the fall semester around Aug. 20.
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