Hundreds of Coquitlam district students studying at home during COVID-19

Switch to distributed learning for 233 students means regular K-12 enrolment has dropped, but federal money will fill in gap to hire teachers

Hundreds of students switched to online classes to deal with the CIOVID-19 pandemic as Coquitlam district schools re-opened this month.

Preliminary figures show 233 students switched to the Encompass K-9 program in September so children could learn at home, according to information provided at the Tuesday, Sept. 28 school board meeting.

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As well, registered homeschoolers are up by 85 students.

More staff had to be hired to meet the increased demand for the distributed learning program and extra funding was provided to School District 43 so it wouldn’t have to cut teachers from the regular K-12 program.

As well, more teachers were hired to support students who will be learning at home in the SD43 gradual transition program until they are ready to return to the classroom.

“We did add staffing to that program and added five teachers to work with learning services, mentorship and technology support teachers,” said superintendent Patricia Gartland.

Board chair Kerri Palmer Isaak said she hoped the additional staffing would comfort families worried about their children getting adequate supports during the pandemic.

But in a rare situation for a school district, teachers are being retained even as overall enrolment has dropped, slightly, to about 30,732,000 students.

As well, the district isn’t bringing in as much revenue for international education, or rentals.

New federal funding helped fill in the gap.

The district has spent $9.1 million out of $11.2 million provided to hire more teachers, including 25 for the distributed learning and gradual transition program, substitute teachers, training, mental health programs, as well as custodial staff to clean schools, personal protective equipment, extra transportation costs and plexiglas barriers.

Being able to keep teachers and education assistants on the job earned positive comments from trustees.

“Our student population has gone down our staffing has increased, I think that’s good news for the district,” Coquitlam trustee Barb Hobson said.

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