Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district considers COVID-19 lessons in planning for fall

Elementary, secondary school committees formed to plan for next school year

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district stakeholders hope lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are applied for next September.

After the B.C. government temporarily suspended in-class instruction in March due to the coronavirus, schools re-opened to essential service worker children in April, and to other students on a limited basis in June. Based on the final month of the school year, stakeholders of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools say there are things to take into consideration going into September.

Denise Wood, Nanaimo district teachers’ union president, said her members saw a heavier workload during the pandemic, which is something she said can’t continue in the fall. In addition, teaching in an online format isn’t the best method, she said.

“Face-to-face teaching is about connections and relationships and those small micro interactions that you’re having with students every single day and when you’re teaching online, that’s not happening,” Wood told the News Bulletin. “There’s lots of students in Nanaimo who did not engage at all with their teachers and for whatever the reasons are.

“Maybe they’re high school kids that got a job, maybe they’re having to look after their younger siblings, maybe they’re dealing with their own crises at home, but as a teacher, you worry about those students and you’re working hard to try to engage them, to continue to reach out. That’s a totally different system than what teachers would normally be expected to do.”

Teachers weren’t able to cover curriculum as usual, said Wood, and going into September, she hopes teachers can do that. Delivery of electives is also something that should be considered, she said.

“If we are in a stage where the virus has increasing numbers, things like band and food, those kinds of classes have to be reconsidered as to how they can be delivered safely,” Wood said. “Students need those elective classes. They need them for their own learning and growth. They need the credits for post-secondary and for graduation, that kind of thing.”

RELATED: SD68 sees third of students return to class with restart

At the the district’s June 24 board meeting, Laura Tait, district assistant superintendent, said committees for elementary and secondary schools, to plan for September, have formed and since the start of the pandemic, the district has created numerous procedures.

“The district has come together and we’ve created operational guidelines for schools and departments,” Tait said at the meeting. “We’ve created a continuity of learning guideline and also our health and safety guidelines. We have that soft infrastructure that exists now for us … We are going to just continue with those same sets of guidelines, but we’re going to think about them for September and that’s really the purpose of these two committees.”

Rob Zver, district education support workers’ union president, said sanitizing and cleaning surfaces was a top priority for district custodians the past three months, but it was difficult to say what he would like to see in place for September.

“COVID doesn’t have a [playbook],” Zver told the News Bulletin. “The health and safety of everybody is foremost and as long as we can abide by procedures and put procedures in there that protect us, then we need to do what’s right … We need to try to keep things working.”

The district parent advisory council was contacted, but was unable to comment by deadline.

RELATED: SD68 operating learning centres for kids of essential workers

RELATED: NLSF looks at ways to feed students during COVID-19 pandemic

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