Saanich First Nations school board postpones in-class teaching

Saanich First Nations school board postpones in-class teaching
WatchA First Nation school board in Saanich has made the decision to keep kids out of schools this Fall, creating their own back to school plan.

Artwork still hangs on the windows of the empty Lau’welnew Tribal School that has been closed since March.

“I’m excited to see my students’ faces again,” said Katia Olsen, a Kindergarten and first-grade teacher at the elementary school.

She is set to start school in September but not in the classroom.

“The board met and made the decision that we felt more comfortable with students out of the classroom,” said Curtis Olson, administrator for the W?SÁNE? School Board, which encompasses the elementary school, W?SÁNE? Leadership Secondary School, and the Adult Education Centre.

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

Back to school this fall will look much different for students at these schools, than the rest of B.C.

“First Nation independent schools are exempt from the requirements to fully open and submit a planning template to the Ministry,” reads a statement on the First Nations Education Steering Committee website.

As B.C. sees a spike in COVID-19 cases, the W?SÁNE? School Board is keeping kids at home. Roughly 300 students at the elementary and high schools will start the year learning online instead of in the classroom.

“The fact that our communities are tight-knit, a lot of the homes are overcrowded, so there’s a lot of extended families under one roof,” said Curtis. “So for that fact if the virus got into our communities, it would be devastating.”

But teaching over video chat isn’t easy, and Katia knows from experience.

“It was really hard and I could see the challenge for students not being able to greet me at the door,” explained the teacher. “Especially if they’d look out and see me pull in, they would want to run to me, so it was really a challenge.”

But ultimately, she says it’s the right decision to postpone in-class learning for her students.

“I think it’s for the best. I know that kids are adaptable they can adjust to it,” said Katia.

These Saanich schools have a five-step gradual plan for returning students to the classroom, but Curtis says they will only move into the next step when the COVID caseload in B.C. and on the Island calms down.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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