Ed Sykora and his son Jonathan were enjoying the last few days of summer at their Langford home Tuesday before the teen heads into grade nine.
But like many parents, that return has Sykora feeling anxious.
“They’re saying OK trust us, we know, but you know I feel that because this is so important and impactful on our kids and our families that there should be more information,” Sykora said.
Sooke School District 62 received such an overwhelming response to a recent online “thought exchange” that it is now offering parents with students in kindergarten through grade 8 a new option where students can learn online, or remotely, until they’re ready to return to the class.
“[It] creates that opportunity for them to take a little more time to see what’s happening before they make the decision to return to in-class instruction,” said SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson.
Stinson says there will be set times students can return to in-class instruction, including any time in September, Remembrance Day, Christmas break or spring break.
Parents have until 9 p.m. Tuesday evening to make their decision in an online survey.
“Once we have the numbers then we can more clearly articulate what will happen with students in our schools,” Stinson said.
But Sykora says there still isn’t enough information to make an informed decision, especially given a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in this province.
“I’m really worried if the numbers keep increasing and what are the contingency plans if school faculty or students or anyone related to the school has COVID, then what happens?” he questioned.
It’s a concern echoed by a B.C. disease modeller who says the numbers show there will be cases in some schools, particularly in the Lower Mainland, as soon as the first day back.
“So that risk isn’t only on day one it sort of propagates and continues throughout the fall if we don’t get things under control,” said SFU mathematics professor Caroline Colijn.
Colijn says the answer isn’t necessarily keeping schools closed but rather preparing.
“I hope school boards and the province with the testing are going to catch up with how we detect these outbreaks and how we mitigate them because they will happen,” she said.
While Ed Sykora says his son will likely be heading back into the classroom, he says he will continue to push for mandatory masks, smaller class sizes, and temperature checks to keep those classrooms as safe as possible.