Gulf Islands School District prepares to offer limited in-class learning

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The Gulf Islands School District is making preparations to offer some in-class learning in the first week of June as directed by the BC Restart Plan.

As district superintendent Scott Benwell reported at the May 13 school board meeting, the re-entry program will begin with the main focus on students in kindergarten through Grade 5. He expects they will split their time to around 50 per cent in the classroom and 50 per cent of learning continuing to take place at home.

Benwell said in-class learning will be offered to a lesser degree to students in grades six through 12, who will have the opportunity to be at school for perhaps 25 per cent of their time. He added that parents will be given the choice of whether or not to send their kids back into physical facilities.

“It is solely at the discretion of families and wherever they find their comfort zone,” Benwell said.

He added that district administrators are still waiting for more information from the Ministry of Education on the exact “what and when,” and are hoping to hear that before the end of this week. The new stage could begin either June 1 or sometime during the first week of June.

“We will have a couple of weeks to make sure we have operations ready to go,” Benwell said.

Staff will be working with WorkSafeBC and unions, as well as responding to provincial guidelines, to make sure health and safety is secured for staff and students going back into facilities and using school buses. Additional input will need to come from Transport Canada regarding the district’s marine transportation service.

District secretary-treasurer Jesse Guy explained safety precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19 will combine environmental measures such as use of outdoor space, erecting physical barriers and enhanced cleaning activities. Administrative strategies will include things like staggering schedules and continuing virtual learning opportunities. People will also be asked to focus on personal responsibility for their own health and that of others, by keeping good hygiene and staying away from schools when not feeling well.

Provincial health orders may include more specific protocols.

“We’re gradually moving and planning but we’re not there in all areas yet,” Guy said.

To help with planning, the school district will be sending out a survey to all families next week to get information about who wants to send students to school.

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