With in-class instruction expected to resume next week, Nanaimo Ladysmith school district’s restart plan has been approved by the ministry.
B.C.’s Ministry of Education halted kindergarten-Grade 12 classes in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the province easing restrictions, parents can choose to return children to school part-time, beginning Monday, June 1. Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ restart plan was approved by the ministry Thursday afternoon, and according to the school district, no more than 50 per cent of students from kindergarten-Grade 5, and no more than 20 per cent of Grade 6-12 students, will be in attendance at a time.
Scott Saywell, school superintendent, elaborated on the plan at the school board’s meeting Wednesday. Students in kindergarten to Grade 5 can return to school two days a week, students in Grades 6-12 can attend once a week.
“We will also be encouraging some of our most vulnerable students to come back full-time and we will be able to accommodate them, as well as students with diverse abilities,” Saywell said. “We’re looking forward to engaging them once again.”
The district’s plan will see students from K-7 split into two groups (A and B). Group A students from K-5 will be in class Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Group B students Thursdays and Fridays. Group A students from Grade 6-7 will be in school Tuesdays and Group B students on Thursday.
Grade 12 students will be in class Mondays, Grade 11s on Tuesdays, Grade 10s on Wednesdays, Grade 9s on Thursdays and Grade 8s on Fridays. Like vulnerable students, children of essential service workers from K-7 can attend school five days a week.
In terms of social distancing, only half the desks in a classroom will be used, up to a maximum of 16 desks, said the school district. Each classroom will have disinfectant spray and gloves.
“Personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves are not needed, beyond those used by staff as part of regular precautions for the hazards normally encountered in their regular course of work,” the plan document said.
For parents who decide to let their children continue remote learning, teachers will continue their support and schools will “adjust learning opportunities throughout June” based on student attendance, according to the document.
While other provinces, such as Ontario, have cancelled class for the rest of the school year, Saywell told trustees Nanaimo-Ladysmith won’t be doing likewise as the number of COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island “is almost non-existent now.”
“We have one case in the hospital and we haven’t had any new cases in almost three weeks now,” Saywell said Wednesday night. “About 900,000 people on the Island, one case in the hospital, that’s about a one-in-a-million chance right now and so the work that we’ve been doing for the last little while … has been producing dividends. It is very safe, right now, to send children back to school.”
The superintendent also said resumption is a critical part of the province’s plan to restart the economy and it would benefit vulnerable students.
“Another reason is that the longer we are out, our most vulnerable learners are impacted the most and for that reason we have to get them back into school as quickly as possible,” Saywell said. “Finally, I think a good reason to be restarting now is this will give us a really good indication of things to expect in September and onward.”
Nanaimo Christian School, independent from the school district, has a similar restart plan, according to principal James Sijpheer, who said students will be back on site June 1.
“We’ll have about 30-35 per cent of K-5 students on campus at one time and the middle school and high school, the target is 20 per cent,” said Sijpheer.
K-5 students will be divided into Monday-Wednesday and Tuesday-Thursday groups, while middle school students and high school students get one day a week of on-campus instruction, as selected by parents.
Grade 6-8 students will see their day of instruction Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Monday and Tuesdays are for Grades 11 and 12 and Wednesday and Thursdays are for Grade 9-10.