The president of the Nelson and District Teachers Association says she’s concerned for her members as public schools prepare to re-open June 1.
Carla Wilson said she has confidence in provincial health recommendations, even though details of how students in School District 8 will return to class haven’t yet been made public.
“I do have many members who have health issues, they might be immune compromised, they might live with someone who is immune compromised or care for elderly parents or have really young children,” said Wilson.
“We know this is a very dangerous disease. We don’t know everything about it.”
B.C.’s 60 districts were asked to provide the education ministry with back-to-school plans by Monday.
SD8 superintendent Christine Perkins told the Star on Tuesday that the plan, which is voluntary for families, calls for kindergarten to Grade 5 students attending classes two days a week. Grade 6 to 12 students will return one day per week, with the rest of their work continuing online.
For elementary schools, Wilson said she wasn’t sure how teachers would keep young students two metres apart, or how a play-based learning curriculum would continue.
“They put their fingers in their mouth and up their nose sometimes. They naturally like to congregate together and touch each other, and that’s just what it is to be a child. So it’s going to be a challenge for those teachers and those kids.”
Another challenge for teachers was to set up online classrooms with only a two-week notice over spring break in March. Wilson said her members have since put plenty of extra hours into learning new technologies and teaching methods to keep students educated.
But because families are being given a choice about returning to school, Wilson said teachers are now being asked to juggle virtual options along with traditional classroom instruction.
“People really need to understand that this is a lot of work and have a lot of compassion for anyone working in the education system right now. … We really are trying to manage the situation so that it’s not going to be a huge increase to teacher workload.”
Wilson said the union doesn’t have concerns about that plan regarding Grade 6-to-12 students, but that will change if schools expect students to file back in September.
Middle schools such as Trafalgar, she said, should be able to keep students confined to specific floors and classrooms. Managing high schools, however, where students are moving between classrooms and teachers, will be a problem.
Still, Wilson had high marks for the district’s collaborations so far with the union. She said she hopes the work done now leads to safe learning environments in the fall.
“I’m incredibly proud of these teachers and how hard they’ve worked and what they’ve done to pull this together. I feel like we are asking a lot of them,” said Wilson.
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