School District No. 54 - Bulkley Valley (SD54) in Smithers. (File photo)

Public school teachers return to work

School district plans for learning continuity as in-person instruction has been suspended

Public school teachers, administrators and support staff are back to work in the Bulkley Valley.

Matthew Monkman, School District 54 (SD54) assistant superintendent, said the district is in the process of developing its plan for providing remote instruction.

“This landscape is fluid and changing daily and because we’re one of four school districts in the province to have returned to work this week from spring break, we are very much the first to be navigating this world as the ministry (of education) is continuing to formulate some clear guidelines,” he said.

In the meantime, the district is reaching out to parents to both provide reassurance and gather information.

At an administrators meeting Monday, conducted both in-person observing social distancing protocols and by Zoom video conferencing, SD54 established two priorities for the week.

READ MORE: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19

The first is making direct contact with all the households and students in the district.

“The initial thing with that is to reassure them that plans are being put into place,” Monkman said. “Also, the mental health and well-being of our families and kids is also one of those things, so provide them that calm reassurance.”

The other priority is a survey that was distributed to gather information about digital devices and internet connectivity in households.

Monkman said within 24 hours they had already received 699 responses in a district of 2,000 students.

All of that is going to inform the planning for individual teachers, individual courses,” he said. “So, if an entire class of Math 12 students are all well-connected at home, there’s lots we can do with online instruction.

“It will also inform where are those families, who do not have connectivity and what can we do to help bridge that,” he said.

Some of the options being discussed include loaning equipment and providing internet access.

“That’s not going to be across the map, it’s not going to be for everybody, it’ll be a case-by-case basis depending on what needs to be delivered and how it needs to be delivered,” he said.

The other thing they are trying to work out is how much access to the schools they are going to allow.

“We haven’t got any formal direction from the ministry on that,” he said, but stressed that the schools are open, it is just in-person instruction that has been suspended.

Protocols have been put into place for to keep staff and students safe, he said, including social distancing, enhanced cleaning regimens and controlled access to the buildings.

Bulkley Valley Christian School (BVCS) and Ebenezer Canadian Reformed School are also preparing for a return to instruction for its students.

THE LATEST: Canada now mandating all returning travellers to quarantine: Freeland

Teachers and students of the Christian schools are still on spring break, but Tom Grasmeyer, BVCS development director, said administrators are hard at work developing a strategy as well. He said, it is a challenging process.

“We’re putting wheels on a bus while the bus is moving,” he said.

Grasmeyer said BVCS will not be not be switching to an online learning model. Rather, he said, they will be looking to extend their existing home-based learning model.

A letter to BVCS families dated March 20 explained.

“Home-based learning will use technology, but it will not be encompassed by it,” the letter stated. “We aim to use technology in ways that are appropriate to your children’s ages and learning needs. This will be different for each student, teacher and grade level.”

BVCS is also calling families this week to discuss what home-based learning will look like for each individual student.

“Our posture is confident, hopeful and even excited about what learning opportunities this might present,” Grasmeyer said.

Closures and cancellations in the Bulkley Valley due to COVID-19

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