Only about one-third of School District 43 students could be returning to classrooms June 1 as part of a phased approach to getting schools back to normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday, superintendent Patricia Gartland revealed the results of a parent survey that showed a clear majority of parents aren’t ready to send their children back to class.
According to the results released at a board meeting, 36% of elementary students could return to class, 33% of middle school students and just 21% of secondary students.
But even with those numbers, Gartland said schools won’t really know how many students will return until they show up on Monday.
With students in classrooms based on the letter of their name in the alphabet and permitted densities depending on the grade (50% for K-5, 20% for 6-12%), SD43 plans to introduce in-class instruction gradually in accordance with provincial orders.
So classes might be small, and some may even be joined if only two or three students show up, Gartland said.
“We’ll see on Monday how our attendance is and then we can put more solid plans in place when we know,” she told trustees during a Zoom meeting.
Student attendance will be taken, not only to keep track of numbers but for contact tracing in case of a positive COVID-19 case as required by Fraser Health, Gartland said.
To keep students apart there will be staff to direct students, markings on the floor, staggered breaks and more outdoor activities, Gartland said.
Detailed plans will be sent to parents this week, she said.
It’s all part of a plan rolled out by the province in its Phase 2 re-start plan. Schools have been closed since before spring break and so for many students this is the first time they will be able to see their classmates in person.
To help ease them into the classroom, teachers will be schooled in “trauma-informed practice” to avoid triggering anxiety or other issues, with webinars being conducted this week.
Port Coquitlam trustee Michael Thomas noted that some students may be returning to school after a challenging time at home as families deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As students are coming back we need to recognize there has been some lost time here, they may not be coming back exactly the same as they left. There may be some additional challenges there.”
Assistant superintendent Rob Zambrano assured trustees that efforts will be made to welcome student, noting that a return to routine might provide some form of “comfort’ for some students.
“It’s important to listen to our children as they arrive with empathy and kindness. It’s also important to create opportunities for hope,” Zambrano said.
Teachers and other adults have an “extremely powerful” role to play in modelling ways to respond to challenging situations, he added.
“Its important that we model and teach that it’s ok to normalize these emotions as we move forward together.”
School counsellors will also be available to provide support to students, he said.