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Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district sees about a third of students return to class

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools offers approximate tally during first week of back-to-school

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district administrators say about 30-40 per cent of students have returned to class after schools re-opened this week with relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Students had the option of returning to part-time instruction June 1 and at a meeting last Wednesday, Laura Tait and Don Balcombe, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools assistant superintendents, updated trustees on attendance through the first three days of school.

Tait said there was an average of 39 per cent of students from kindergarten to Grade 5 attending. For Grade 6-7, an average of 40 per cent of students attended, Grade 11 saw a 37 per cent average and for Grade 12, on average 34 per cent of students attended, she said.

“We don’t have a percentage or an average for Grades 8 through 10 because it was so broad, but the numbers ranged from 30 students to 223 students coming,” said Tait.

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Children of essential service workers have been offered in-school support five days a week since mid April, and Tait said a majority of have attended. Vulnerable students also can attend school five days a week.

“We’ve had about 374 potential children of essential services worker families apply to attend for the five days a week and of that … 303 have attended, so most schools have had good participation,” Tait said.

Balcombe told trustees about the challenges related to students requiring additional supports. Some families have chosen to continue with remote learning, some to return to school five days a week, while some have chosen partial or full days, he said.

“Some [educational assistants] are communicating face-to-face through … some teachers have been dropping off materials for students who have chosen to continue their learning at home…” Balcombe said. “It’s been really satisfying from the district to see everybody pulling so hard to make this happen under very challenging circumstances.”

When asked by Jessica Stanley, education committee chairperson, about playgrounds, Tait said physical distancing is easier with “significantly less number of kids at school.”

“Many of our schools have vast, massive properties,” said Tait. “So that’s a good thing to remember because that gives us lots of opportunity to socially distance and to have kids spaced out to a great degree … the playgrounds are open, we’re not using play equipment like balls, etc., at the moment, but the space is certainly open.”

Tait said children are supervised while outside and are taught proper protocol, washing their hands before and after going out to play.

With the restart underway, Liana Appelt, Nanaimo District Secondary School principal, told the News Bulletin she was excited to see students back in the halls.

“We were happy for those that came,” said Appelt. “We wish there had been more, but we also see it as a sign that some are being very successful online and they don’t feel they need to come in.”

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