Staff in the Southeast Kootenay school district have been working on plans for learning opportunities in the face of in-class suspensions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Teachers and district staff have been checking in with students over the last few days and early into the week, and learning opportunities and plans will be shared with students next week, according to a letter from School District 5 Superintendent Silke Yardley.
That includes working with education assistants on ways to support special needs students, while the Aboriginal Education department is also working on supports for Indigenous students, according to the letter.
Principals will be in contact with families to arrange a schedule for students to pick up belongings still at the school, to ensure a healthy and safe process. Do not go to a school unless contacted by a principal. For school access protocols, buildings will be locked during the day to control public access, and the administrator will determine workloads and school hours of operation for staff.
Yardley also writes that staff are also working with daycare providers to determine availability for providing service to support essential workers. Once staff has a better idea of daycare availability, in-school supports will be organized.
A survey is available for essential services worker to request consideration for on-site supervision or care.
“It is important that essential service workers exhaust all possibilities for supervision of their children first, before accessing the essential services school support,” writes Yardley. “This will help SD5 in its efforts to safely apply health and safety protocols as defined by the Provincial Medical Health Officer.”
SD5 is also working on providing support for vulnerable students, including accessing mental health resources, while food supports are being coordinated with the Salvation Army, City of Cranbrook, City of Fernie and other food recovery programs.
As far as student learning goes, SD5 is taking guidance from a provincial kindergarten to Grade 12 framework designed to support school districts in providing education during the pandemic. The district’s delivery framework breaks down into four divisions between Kindergarten – Grade 3, Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9 , and Grade 10-12, with various educational opportunities and outcomes for each section.
Jason Tichauer, the Safe Schools Coordinator for SD5, says staff are familiarizing and training on remote technology such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, while also considering the technological capabilities are for the average household — if technology needs to be provided and how that would work.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty on how education will be structured for students given the suspension of in-class learning, Tichauer said the district has confidence in the system they’re working in.
“We are trying to run a system remotely that has no business being run remotely,” Tichauer said. “In the end, the relationship between our staffs and our students is paramount in our system and so really, what we are trying to do, first and foremost, is maintain those positive relationships.
“It’s not business as usual, it can’t be business as usual, but we are doing our best to support our students and especially our vulnerable learners within whatever capacity we have.”
The district says the Ministry of Education expects every student, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status to continue to learn. All students will still receive a report card in June, and all those who were on track to progress to the next grade will move on.
Any updates for parents and staff can be found on the SD5 website.