While elementary school students shouldn’t see many changes as the 2020-21 school year starts, education will be different for secondary students, says Nanaimo Ladysmith school district’s superintendent.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Education, school districts are required to post their COVID-19-conscious back-to-school plans online by today, Aug. 26 and Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools says it will offer in-class instruction, remote learning and support for home-schooling. In a post on YouTube last Friday, Scott Saywell, school district superintendent and CEO, said high school students won’t be on the semester system.
The ministry previously announced that students would receive instruction in learning groups, or cohorts, with a maximum of 60 students for elementary and 120 for secondary.
In the social media post, Saywell said the semester system wouldn’t allow for secondary students learning groups under 120 students. The school district would prefer flexibility in moving in and out of various provincial COVID-19 stages as the threat grows and shrinks.
Instead, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, like most other school districts in the province, will be moving to a ‘quarterly’ system that will see students taking two classes at a time over 10 weeks, four times during the school year. There will be one class in the morning and another in the afternoon.
“That’ll run for 10 times a week and then they will shift into the next two classes and of course, that will happen four times over the year, so that students can get their full complement of eight courses,” Saywell said.
Because of the way the district is typically set up around elementary and middle school classrooms, which include fewer than 30 students, Saywell said younger students “won’t see much change when they return to school.”
The district recently received $1 million in funding from the ministry to ensure schools across the district are safe, said Saywell, and a majority of that will go towards hiring custodial staff, as well as cleaning supplies and a personal protective equipment for students and teachers.
“We’ve also purchased something called the Clorox Total 360 electrostatic sprayer for each one of our schools and these are hospital-grade machines that can clean our classrooms very quickly and can cover in and around surfaces with disinfectant very quickly,” Saywell said.
The first day of school for students, originally scheduled for Sept. 8, has been pushed back to Sept. 10 and 11, said the superintendent, to allow staff time to become acclimatized to safety procedures.
“They’ll be getting their timetables and learning about all the new health and safety protocols at that time,” Saywell said.