Uncertainty surrounds the remainder of the school year for K-12 students in the South Okanagan, following an announcement by the B.C. government today that classes would be suspended.
Referring to it as a ‘crisis situation’ Premier John Horgan said classes at schools in School District 67 are now suspended until further notice.
B.C.’s total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 186 Wednesday, as 83 cases were added to the public health database and three more people died after contracting the novel coronavirus, bringing the total amount of deaths to seven.
Gatherings of 50 or more people have been banned and health officials are telling people to stay in Canada.
SD67 Chair James Palanio says this announcement didn’t catch them by surprise, and staff has already begun meeting to decide next steps. He anticipates they will decide tomorrow (Wednesday) what the rest of the school year will look like.
“We will basically await to hear word as to how we’re going to incorporate some sort of online learning as best we can,” said Palanio. “I don’t know if it’s going to be provincially dealt with or if it will be district by district.
“We’re basically still learning as we go.”
On March 13 UBCO announced they were moving all classes online, amid COVID-19 concerns. However Palanio says it’s a different story for elementary and secondary schools.
“That is the difficulty here; we obviously have our grade 12s, which are probably the most concerned I would think,” he said.
Although waters are still muddy, Palanio provided some reassurance saying those grade 12s with passable grades currently will still graduate.
Online learning, he said, is realistic for the older grades, however will pose challenges for the younger grades. Referring to his 10-year-old in Grade 5, Palanio suspects it might be difficult to keep her engaged. And younger than this, he speculated online learning may not be doable.
This news in relation to COVID-19 has forced some school districts to temporarily put projects on the back-burner, including annual budget.
“We’re still trying to deal with our budget, as all districts are, with the budgets going forward, and this is certainly taken priority now,” he said.
Palanio says they’re currently focused on calming anxieties and abolishing uncertainties, and expect to know more tomorrow (Wednesday) after SD67 superintendent Wendy Hyer meets with school administrators.