9 things Tri-Cities parents need to know about back-to-school next week

B.C.’s Ministry of Education posts FAQ on its websites as schools, including those in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Anmore, prepare to reopen virtually

Some School District 43 parents are getting a glimpse into how learning will resume after spring break, and while teachers are expected to be back in the classroom April 1, it may take a little longer for programs to be in place.

The BC government has asked schools to have programs up and running by mid-April at the latest but some online activities and learning will likely be made available earlier to get kids into a routine.

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At one elementary school, Baker Drive in Coquitlam, for example, parents have been told to expect some independent study in the first week, with more directed study the week after.

Here’s what the province is laying out in an FAQ to parents on the SD43 website.

EXTRA SUPPORTS

While exactly how learning will be conducted next week is unknown to parents and students as yet, the province has laid out a number of guidelines for schools — including how children with learning disabilities, those who are on the autism spectrum or have other special learning needs will get help and extra instruction.

For example, students who were receiving one-to-one instruction will still get supports and school-based teams will be expected to work with families and caregivers to develop a plan for ongoing learning and supports.

Schools with meal programs are to prioritize those students with food insecurity and to ensure food is provided according to provincial health office guidelines.

Families with students with diverse learning needs will continue to receive support. The Family Support Institute and Inclusion BC will continue to provide support to parents.

For those on the autism spectrum, planning is underway to respond to their unique challenges, funding to support these students is still in place and efforts will be made to find services and supports to meet their needs, according to the FAQ.

CHILD CARE

Where a child care facility is on a school site, efforts will be made to figure out ways to continue these services, and the province is working to ensure children under 12 whose parents are essential service workers will continue to have access to daycare.

PHYSICAL DISTANCING

While many schools may have more than 50 staff members — the number allowed in one place by the provincial health officer — efforts will be made to ensure physical distancing, according to the province.

As well, a limited number of students who are children of essential service workers may be attending school at “any given time in order to allow for sufficient physical distancing.”

Schools will be given instructions on how to maintain cleanliness, ensure physical distancing and to control access to buildings to limit exposure.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

Among the learning strategies that could be provided include online learning tools and or resource packages or assignments emailed from teachers to parents.

STARTING TIME

School districts and independent school authorities have been asked to put in place learning opportunities “as soon as practically possible” — but no later than mid-April.

School District 43 has already informed parents that instruction may not start on March 30 because of time needed for planning. But at least one elementary school has already informed parents that teachers will be in school Tuesday, April 1.

Parents have been asked to get set up on Zoom, a software for video conferencing more than one person at a time.

TECHNOLOGY

Efforts will be made to ensure families have access to a computer for online learning if they con’t currently have one at home.

“Some school districts and independent schools are considering loaning equipment for students and potential in-person learning options, based on a prioritization of need, to make sure all students have the tools they need to learn away from a school building,” the FAQ states.

FRENCH IMMERSION

Schools will be expected to support parents and provide access to French learning resources.

Friday, March 27, the Ministry of Education will have a website with home learning resources to help parents support their children while in-class instruction is suspended. 

PARENTS AS TEACHERS

Parents will likely have to support their children, especially younger children who may require explanations and guidance on how to approach home learning activities. Classroom teachers and principals are expected to provide more information and expectations in the coming weeks.

PERSONAL ITEMS

Each school district and independent school authority will be responsible to determine how families can retrieve their personal or education items at their children’s schools but access to school buildings will have to be carefully arranged in order to respect the guidelines, the FAQ states.

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