Letter: Back-to-school consultation with parents is flawed & needs to be fixed

The Editor,

I don't understand how parents' views are being gathered by the B.C. Ministry of Education or school boards in making their back-to-school plans. The ministry suggests all important "stakeholders" have been part of their working group, but there is no meaningful consultation with parents that I've been able to uncover.

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During the normal school year, parents with questions or concerns can make those known to their school Parent Advisory Council (PAC) which carries the concern up to the District PAC (DPAC). The DPACs make those concerns known directly to their school district. The DPAC can also raise those concerns through the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Council (BCCPAC) to the Ministry. 

The problem is that none of these PAC bodies are in session during the summer. So there is no meaningful consultation being done with parents. Plans are being made by school district boards and sent to the ministry without the input of the student families whose lives are being affected. (The hardworking volunteers at BCCPAC, through no fault of their own, are trying to provide input to the ministry but have their hands tied without input from their members due to the summer break).

The Ministry of Education already has to plan for both online and in-person learning. So why does it have to be a one-size-fits-all approach? Why is it not possible for parents to have a choice between 100% online, 100% in-class or a hybrid? And if the ministry provided a choice, they might find the number of students they needed to accommodate (and socially distance) on site would be much more manageable.

I urge the ministry and SD43 to show more flexibility in their back-to-school plans while they consult with parents and we learn through a more gradual return to in-person learning.

M. Knuttila, Port Moody

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