The North Okanagan-Shuswap school district is keeping parents, students and staff in the loop as they approach the start of a school year like no other.
Ahead of the release of its full safety plan, School District 83 provided some answers to common questions about returning to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this unusual year, SD83 would like to share what information we currently have, and hopefully answer some questions our parents may have about the new school year,” communications staff say in a message on the school district’s website, posted Thursday, Aug. 13.
In line with updated plans announced by B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming on Wednesday, teachers in SD 83 will report to their schools Sept. 8 for safety orientations and planning sessions. Students will arrive on Sept. 10 for their own safety orientations.
The district is adhering to guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control. Following the direction of the public health officer, learning groups (or cohorts) will be formed. In each cohort, students will interact primarily with each other.
Buses will continue to run, though additional safety protocols still need to be finalized for all bus routes.
“These will likely include seating plans, use of masks for riders in grades four through twelve, as well as PPE for the drivers. Submission of regular health checks may also be required,” the school district said.
Parents of bus students may be required to submit health checks, but health check forms will otherwise not be required.
“However, it is extremely important that parents pay close attention to the health of their children and keep them at home if they are sick or symptomatic.”
Changes to school start and end-of-day times aren’t being considered at this time, since many students commute via the school district’s interlocking bus schedule. Break and lunch times may be staggered in some schools to reduce hallway traffic, playground crowds and common area interactions.
High schools are currently weighing timetable options to limit the number of student contacts, and the district says some of its secondary schools are considering a “quarter system” that involves students taking two courses a day for 10 weeks.
To meet cohort requirements while still allowing students to enroll in their selected courses, some larger high schools may divide students into groups, with those groups taking turns attending in person and working from home.
SD 83 also has an online option for students in Grades 9-12. The Education Outreach Program supplies assignments, resources and some access to a local teacher, though the program is mostly self-directed.
Plans and protocols will be posted online at sd83.ca.ca as they are updated in the coming weeks.
SD 83 says clubs and after-hours activities could also continue if cohorts or physical distancing can remain intact.