Back to school: What does a return to the classroom look like for Island students?

WatchBack to school in this pandemic isn't one size fits all. The return to the classroom is going to look different in each district, and the province is encouraging parents to educate themselves on their options.

One of the biggest topics of conversation over the last month has been surrounding British Columbian students returning to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of July, the B.C. government revealed its overarching plan for students in kindergarten through to Grade 12 to head back to school in September.

Despite the province’s return plan having the approval of Dr. Bonnie Henry, parents, teachers, faculty and students have all highlighted various concerns over the last month about the risks of re-entering facilities.

Although the B.C. government has continued to address several of these concerns and adapt the plan accordingly, they have not wavered from having students return to classrooms in the second week of September.

With the official start date of September 10 fast approaching, Wednesday brought further details of how each district plans on handling the upcoming school year. According to the provincial government, all elementary and middle school students will return to in-person class 100 per cent of the time in September.

Districts were required to post their respective plans online by August 26. While elementary schools and middle schools will have a similar format to previous years, secondary schools might feel a lot different.

READ MORE: B.C. secondary students to see range of in-person instruction time depending on district

Below are the various secondary school plans by school district:

SD61 – Greater Victoria School District

The plan for all secondary schools within the Greater Victoria School District is to follow the quarterly model – something that Rob Fleming said is being done by 70 per cent of districts in the province.

This means that students will have two face-to-face classes over the course of a 10-week term. This will total eight courses for the year. Students will be grouped together for the 10-week period in cohorts of up to 120 people maximum, with each class size being limited to 30.

In Victoria schools, one of the classes being taken in the quarterly semester will involve face-to-face sessions with a teacher for all five mornings in a week. The other class will integrate a “blended model” with instruction being in-person two afternoons per week, supplemented by independent home study on the remaining afternoons.

After five weeks of the quarterly semester, the morning and afternoon courses will flip. This is in an effort to keep class sizes small and have fewer students in facilities.

SD62 – Sooke School District

Sooke was one of the first districts to release their plans on Vancouver Island, announced yesterday that all secondary schools will be operating on something being called the “one-eighth” model.

Under the one-eighth model, secondary school students will attend each school day during either morning or afternoon for one course at a time, for approximately five weeks.

Outside of their scheduled instruction period in the morning or afternoon, students will have the remainder of the day for self-directed learning – either at home or on-site. The Sooke School District says that students will be able to receive additional or access resources outside of their part-time classroom sessions.

SD62 Superintendent, Scott Stinson, suggests that the goal of the one-eight model is to drastically reduce the number of people in the school at any given time. This is in an effort to limit the number of students in common spaces, allowing for further physical distancing.

SD63 – Saanich School District

The Saanich School District states it will be reorganizing to operate on a system known as a Copernican schedule.

This is similar to the quarterly schedule being followed by the Greater Victoria School District where students will have a course load of two classes over the span of 10 weeks.

Saanich hasn’t outlined what the make-up of a day will look like and it doesn’t appear that the “blended model” that incorporates at-home learning is being used.

The district did give some insight as to how students will be grouped together, however. A statement on Saanich School District’s website suggests that “cohorts will be organized based on a combination of individual grades, grouping grades, combining courses which are required, or courses which are similar in nature.”

Saanich also says that electives that can’t be effectively put into cohorts may be offered outside of the Copernican structure under special circumstances that follow health protocols or in a remote capacity.

SD71 – Comox Valley School District

The Comox Valley School District will also be following along the Copernican schedule when students return to the classroom.

In their detailed plans, the district highlights that students will be taking two blocks per day for a 10-week period. Comox Valley School District states that class blocks will be approximately 2.5 hours long.

The district also points out that there is a possibility that morning or afternoon blocks are split into two courses within the same cohort.

Students in Grade 8-10 will stay in the same cohorts for the duration of the day, while Grade 11-12 will stay in their cohorts for the morning and “practice social distancing in their afternoon classes (to allow for students to take courses needed to fulfill grad requirements).”

SD 68 – Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools will also have learning groups on the quarter, or Copernican,
system. The district said this move from a semester system will ensure that learning groups are under
120 in size.

Where possible, teaching assignments are being aligned with student learning groups to reduce the number of teachers that students interact with and to allow teachers to be members of the learning group. Where that is not possible, teachers will maintain physical distancing while working with students outside of their learning group.

For example, some elective teachers will be working with more than one learning group, the district said.

The district noted all students K-12 are in learning groups, except as noted for multi-grade elective courses, in which case physical distancing will be in place for students who are not within the learning group, additional teaching/learning space is used, or remote learning for some students.

In these classes, all students will attend three, four or five days per week. Schools are working to ensure that course offerings are not being reduced, the district said in its back-to-school plan.  Classes that have more than one learning group (for example, an art class that has students in Grades 10, 11, and 12 from three or more learning groups) will maintain physical distancing and will make use of assigned seating to separate learning groups, make use of flexible or additional learning space, or use a hybrid model that supplements in-class instruction with remote learning. I

In classes where a hybrid model is necessary, all student schedules will ensure that students attend one learning group class five days a week, and the second, nonlearning group class, a minimum of half-time face to face for each quarter. Most non-learning group classes will have students face to face three, four, or five days a week.

All schools will stagger breaks for learning groups throughout the day. The three largest schools
(Dover Bay, Wellington and NDSS) will be staggering start and end times, as well as break and lunch times.

All schools will be reducing the area within the building that each learning group will have access to during non-instructional time. For example, different learning groups will use different entrances, washrooms, and social spaces.

SD 70 – Pacific Rim

Alberni District Secondary School and Ucluelet Secondary School have reorganized under a quarter model, reducing in-class instruction to two courses per term.

Morning classes will become the students main learning group and, where possible, students will be scheduled into afternoon classes in a manner that maximizes continuity between morning and afternoon learning groups.

Where students from different learning groups must mix in afternoon classes – a likelihood given the variety of elective options and scheduling challenges – mandated health and safety expectations will apply (ie. physical distancing, mask-wearing, etc.) As part of their learning program, students may also
choose self-paced learning options offered through school-based Learning Commons programs.

SD 79 – Cowichan Valley School District 

In the Cowichan Valley School District, the smallest secondary school, Lake Cowichan School, with grade cohorts of fewer than 40 will be assigning their grade 10-12s together in one learning group, and
then their 8-9s together into another learning group, allowing them to run their usual semester schedule with little impact on staffing or students.

Three of the secondary schools with large numbers (Frances Kelsey, Cowichan, Chemainus) are moving from a semester system to a quarter system. Within the quarter system, students will be anchored by an elective as their learning group, allowing for the learning group to move from class to class.

The district states are many complexities in timetabling our secondary schools where electives are taught to multiple grades in the same class e.g. Band 10-12. Some electives may not be available due to difficulties in physically distancing or maintaining learning groups. Some electives will be given priority when timetabling eg. post-secondary pre-requisite courses, and some students may not get all of their elective choices.

Quamichan School is adjusting to a linear timetable by creating learning groups of students in both grades.

Although physical distancing may be required in some of their exploratories, the district said the school feels that they can make this schedule fit for all students while ensuring safety for all.

SD 72 – Campbell River School District 

Secondary schools are to have learning groups to a maximum of 120 people, including staff. The secondary schools are moving to a 1/8 course model with students taking one course at a time for five

This will mean that secondary students will have a learning group of no more than 30 students. Additional time and support will be provided for students that need it.

SD 64- Gulf Islands

At the secondary school, learning groups will be no more than 120 individuals. Learning groups can be a single classroom of students and staff or multiple classes who join for some activities (like recess or lunch). Specific details about learning groups at each school will be in the individual School Restart Plans.

SD 47 – Powell River 

Grade 8 and 9 students will be placed in linear(full year) face-to-face classes and take a total of eight
courses in the school year. Classes will consist of 30 or fewer students. Cohorts will consist of 120 students and staff combined orfewer. A team ofteachers will be attached to specific cohorts for a cross curricular approach to the learning standards set out in the curriculum. Teachers will be co-planning and coteaching throughout the school year.

Grade 10 -12 students will have two face-to-face courses each term (for a total of eight courses in the school year). Courses will change every 10 weeks. Most students will take both of their
courses with the same peers,reducing the number of different interactions with others in the building. Students will be placed in cohorts based on their original course requests. Students will also be given the
opportunity to take some online courses with Brooks Online (in-person or remotely)to accommodate course requests that had low enrollment orto satisfy graduation requirements and personal requests.

SD 69 – Qualicum

Grades 11-12 system will operate on a quarter system. Morning classes will be in the A blocks that were scheduled in the fall semester, with afternoons being for scheduled C block classes. The second quarter, starting in mid-November, will be blocks B and D. The morning class will be the learning group for the students. The afternoon class will have students in intact groups of no more than four, with groups distanced by two metres. For grades 8 to 10, students will be taking home-based classes working in a semester or linear model.

SD 46- Sunshine Coast

Secondary schools will be using semestered courses with single grade cohorts where possible and assigned seating; physical distancing and/or masks will be employed where students or staff may work in classes outside of their cohort; breaks and movement within the school will be controlled so that the minimum number of staff and students will be in common areas at one time; entry/exit points to buildings will be changed for cohort groups; areas of the schools will be dedicated to specific cohort groups at certain times (halls or meeting rooms/ gathering points like the Chatelech foyer).

SD 85 – Vancouver Island North

One of SD85 secondary schools has a population of less than 120. They will be considered one cohort.

Two of SD85 secondary schools have a population of over 120. These schools will have two or more learning cohorts.

SD 84 – Vancouver Island West

Captain Meares Elementary School will have a single learning group of staff and students under 60. Gold River Secondary School will have a single learning group of staff and students under 120. Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School will have a single learning group of staff and students under 60. Zeballos Elementary Secondary School will have a single learning group of staff and students under 60.





Graham CoxGraham Cox
Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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