Construction is underway to get some schools ready for September but the biggest back to school changes will be inside.
“I want to say to all families, to staff and especially to students, it’s okay to be nervous,” says Sooke School District 62 board chair Ravi Parmar. “I’m nervous too. We have never done anything like this before.”
On Tuesday morning, the Sooke School District became one of the first to unveil its back-to-school plan.
“For our elementary families, things will look much the same as they did before, with some enhanced health and safety protocols,” explains School District 62 superintendent Scott Stinson. “One hundred per cent of our students will return to in-class instruction all the time.”
Middle schools will also return full-time and, like elementary school children, will be in cohorts of no more than 60 — including recess and lunch.
But secondary students will only go in the morning or the afternoon and instead of four classes each semester, they’ll do just one class for five weeks at a time.
“They’ll spend a significant chunk of time in classroom in either the morning or afternoon with instruction from the teacher and because of the rapid pace of the program, they will need a chunk of time to be able to do the work,” Stinson says.
The Saanich School District has a similar plan for elementary and middle school, with full-time in-class instruction, staggered recess and lunch breaks and cohorts of no more than 60.
Secondary students will have a cohort size of 120 and do two courses over a ten-week period.
The Greater Victoria School District’s unveiling its plan Wednesday, with full-time return for elementary and middle school as well as a new hybrid option.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from our community that not everybody feels comfortable with a full-time hack to school plan so we’re wanting to create options that allow families to stay connected to their schools,” says School District 61 board chair Jordan Watters.
“We’re so grateful to our staff to thinking outside the box and being creative and responsive to the feedback we’ve heard from our communities so the hybrid option I think really resolves a lot of concerns so we’re excited!”
Concerned West Shore parents are already calling for a similar option.
Sooke School District officials say they’re hopeful that once parents read through their entire plan, which includes enhanced cleaning protocols, hiring more janitors, re-routing traffic within schools and providing re-usable masks for students and staff, that concerns will be alleviated.
But if they’re not, the district is promising to be flexible and adapt.
“We’re going to work with them,” Parmar says. “We know if we have a significant portion of our population who don’t feel comfortable with this plan, then we need to be able to adapt and change.”
After a gradual return on Sept. 10 and 11, the first full day of school will be Sept. 14.