Squamish schools prepare for socially-distanced in-class learning | Squamish Chief

Squamish schools prepare for socially-distanced in-class learning

Students will attend class part-time in less dense classrooms

With in-person classes set to open again provincewide in June, Squamish's school district acknowledges parents may be apprehensive about bringing their kids back.

"Kids coming to class will be voluntary," said Supt. Lisa McCullough of the Sea to Sky School District. "So families are just going to need to have to use their own judgment on their comfort with their child returning at this time."

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As per provincial guidelines, elementary school students will be going to class two days a week, while middle and high school students will be in class one day a week.

However, it will be business as usual for some categories of children, who've already been attending class in-person throughout the lockdown.

Children of essential services workers are still welcome to come full-time. Children with vulnerabilities or learning challenges can continue to come to class any day for help. These two categories were deemed a priority for attendance by the province when COVID-19 closures were announced.

Teachers will be expected to come to class in person, assuming they are in the condition to do so, McCullough said. However, if there are extenuating circumstances, they can talk to human resources, she added.

Brackendale Elem
A child plays on the zipline at Brackendale Elementary, pre-COVID. The playgrounds are set to reopen at school district sites on May 25. - Denise Conway

Playgrounds are slated to open May 25. 

With more children coming in, Squamish schools are preparing for in-person instruction in an era of social distancing.

"I do want to reassure everyone that our buildings will be safe places. And that we will scrutinize that safety as we move along," McCullough said.

She said the Sea to Sky School District will be using a staggered attendance system that will allow greatly reduced amounts of students to be in schools at any one time.

For example, students could attend class in alphabetical order, with students with names A to E on one day, F to J on another, and so on, McCullough said.

Administrators still haven't figured out the exact system that will be used, but alphabetical order is one possibility, she said.

For the remainder of the week that students aren't in school, online learning will allow children to keep working on their education.

In order to free up more space, local schools are also clearing out furniture, storage and personal items in classrooms. 

"Part of our safety planning is to create more open, spacious classrooms and other workspaces," said McCullough. "There should be lots of space for smaller numbers of students to be in classrooms."

Meal services will still be ongoing, she said.

During the pandemic, schools have been delivering food to the homes of children who are dependent on meal programs. That will still continue, said McCullough, but officials are figuring out how many need to be delivered and how many can be picked up at class once schools open.

"People's patience with this is greatly appreciated and goes a  long way to helping us create a good plan," she said.

"We will have very very strict safety protocols in place at schools. WorkSafeBC has approved these protocols. As well — we worked through our unions."


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