By the time this week’s Observer hits the stands we will hopefully have a clearer picture of what the 2020-21 school year is going to look like amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
School principals in School District 83 are redoing schedules to meet the requirements of the provincial health officer, while the school district has prepared its safety plan for the Ministry of Education. Completion and approval of these will no doubt help answer some of the bigger questions facing educators and parents regarding such things as class size and layout, days of in-class instruction, etc.
The school district has indicated some changes students will face in the coming school year. Most high schools will be moving to a quarter system where they attend two classes for 10 weeks. To help meet education requirements, some of the bigger schools may have a schedule for learning groups to attend on different days.
School buses will be in operation and, because of the large number of students who use them, no change is proposed for school start and end times.
Break and lunch times may be staggered and school playgrounds divided into areas to limit student numbers.
The school district is also looking at options for students wishing to continue online learning.
School District 83’s safety plan will be posted to its website on Aug. 26, after which the school district will be surveying parents to see what their plans are for the upcoming school year.
Of course, answers from parents will vary. Some may have found online learning OK, but it is not viable model for all. For younger students it requires a parent or guardian at home. It requires access to a computer and the Internet (a challenge for homes with multiple students and/or a parent who is working from home). And it means losing the social aspects of school that are important to a child’s development.
At the same time, there are prevailing health and safety concerns for parents the province and the school district may not be able to satisfactorily address.
One thing is for certain: it will be a different school year and, as the pandemic has taught us, parents and students must be prepared for change.