Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the first time in two months this week.
At Victoria’s Central Middle School, lane arrows were taped along the hallway, stairwells are designated as up or down only and desks are spaced six feet apart. Every hour a voice over the PA system reminds students to wash their hands and sanitizer is a classroom staple.
Monday was the first day back for some students following two months of remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Principal Gillian Braun says between 150 and 160 students at Central Middle School alternating between a Monday, Wednesday in-class schedule, while another group is on a Tuesday, Thursday schedule. At first, students of essential workers were welcomed back for care during the day, then students who were vulnerable learners were invited back and now, about 50 per cent of students are in classes.
Shelley Green, superintendent for School District 61 says she was “very surprised” with the number of students back in school. Green says the schools are deep cleaned before students enter the building and touchpoints are sanitized throughout the day.
Across the province, about 30 per cent of B.C. students were in class for the first day in-class instruction since classes were cancelled in March.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said that equates to about 60,000 students having returned to class on Monday.
“We hope the June restart is part of something that will let us have an even stronger start in September,” Fleming said during a June 2 press conference.
Provincial attendance figures for Monday ranged from 48 per cent for Grade 6 students to 15 per cent for Grade 12s. Classes remain small in size, with kindergarten to Grade 5 students having a limited to 50 per cent of school capacity, and older students limited to 20 per cent. The younger students are on an alternating or half-time schedule, while older ones are at about one day a week.
About 90 per cent of teachers have returned to in-class instruction across B.C., with the rest given accommodations to work from home. Some teachers have been laid off, Fleming noted, per the rules of the B.C.Teachers’ Federation collective agreement.
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