COVID-19 Updates

Min of Education - June School Restart Sets the Stage for September (June 25, 2020)

June 25 - The Ministry of Education released a general update on preparations for September.  This release does not provide any information on the anticipated stage being implemented, but it does mention the plan over the summer to prepare for this decision later on. 

A letter from the Minister of Education and the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is attached for your information.


COVID-19 Testing Procedures for Children (Sept 18 2020)

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Today, Island Health provided school districts with a letter that we are sharing with all parents about the new gargle test for COVID-19.  It provides information about the new test, when to go for the test, as well as health checks and return-to-school protocols.  You can find the letter Taking Your Student For a Mouth Rinse & Gargle COVID-19 Test on our district website here.


Dave Eberwein
Superintendent of Schools


Stage 2 - Q&A (Updated Sept. 7, 2020)

Q&A have been grouped into four themes: Click here to view the answers.

    1. Why are schools returning to in-class instruction in September?
    2. Is it safe for children to return to school?
    3. What has B.C. learned from the reopening of schools in other places?
    1. Why are safety measures in K-12 schools regarding physical distancing and masks different than what is expected in the general community?
    2. What is the frequency and protocol for classroom cleaning?
    3. Will playgrounds be sanitized between the different learning groups using them?
    4. How is SD63 ensuring that the HVAC systems are satisfactory?
    5. Will parents need to supply masks and sanitizing supplies?
    6. What happens if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the school?
    7. Will children keep their school supplies at school, or will they be expected to bring in their items daily?
    8. What is a daily health check? When and how should I do them?
    9. Will I be notified if there is a positive COVID-19 case in my child’s school?
    10. Is it safe to share books and other paper documents?
    11. How were the learning group sizes determined?
    1. What are cohorts or learning groups?
    2. Are children required to be physically distancing in their classroom?
    1. ​If I register my child for distributed learning or home schooling, will they lose their place at their current school?
    2. When do I have to decide about whether to choose in-class instruction, distributed learning, remote learning or home schooling for my child?
    3. What is the Remote Learning option?
    4. Can students move back and forth between In-class and Remote Learning?
    5. What supports will be in place for students with disabilities and diverse abilities?
    6. What about immunocompromised students and parents/caregivers?
    7. What are the initial proportions of students in each of the learning options?

Letter to Parents: Returning to School Operations (Aug 27, 2020)

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Re: Returning to School Options

As indicated by the Minister of Education yesterday, the Province is providing districts with funding to allow for a remote learning option for those parents/guardians who are not yet ready to have their child(ren) return to in-class instruction. The purpose of the email is to provide you with a description of the options available to you as we begin school in September. We are providing a Declaration Form so we can accurately plan for start-up in the limited amount of time we have before school begins. It is important we receive a form for each child who will be entering Kindergarten through Grade 12. Please complete the Declaration Form no later than Monday, August 31st at 3:00 pm. This information is critical to our planning as we ready for school in September.

Families will need to select from 1 of 4 instructional methods for each of their children:

  1. Student will return to In-Class Learning at school (Elementary and Middle 100% attendance model; Secondary 75%-100% attendance model).
  2. Student has been enrolled in Distributed Learning. Please see the following link for more information about this option:
  3. Student will Learn Remotely through the district and maintain a place in their school for when they are ready to return. **Please see the information below regarding this option.
  4. Student will enroll in Homeschooling. Please see the following link for more information about this option:

Link to Declaration Form:

Option #3: Remote Learning

On August 26th, the Minister of Education announced that districts will now provide a remote learning option as part of their offerings to their community. Link to Minister’s announcement:

In Saanich, the Remote Learning option will have the following components:

  • Students will learn remotely at home with the assistance of a teacher assigned by the district (not their regular classroom teacher).
  • Teachers will connect with students periodically throughout the week.
  • The focus for all levels will be on core academics:
    • Elementary / Middle – Language Arts and Math
    • Secondary – Core Academic Subjects (no electives will be offered due to their instructional nature).
  • French Immersion will be supported for Elementary, Middle and Secondary.
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will be followed and supported.

We expect the Remote Learning option to begin sometime during the week of September 21, 2020. Students who are enrolled in the Remote Learning option will have the option of returning to In-Class Learning in their school at natural breaks during the year (i.e., Quarter-semester breaks: 10 weeks/20 weeks) as well as the Winter and Spring Breaks. This is to minimize changes to Student Cohorts (Learning Groups) within the school.

Immune-compromised Students: If your child has a medical condition that prevents them from learning at school, please contact your local school directly for more information. As we have always done, schools will continue to work with families to best support your children who are medically compromised.

We know that this time of uncertainty has been challenging for families. Our goal continues to ensure that we build a robust educational program in our schools to meet your needs. Thank you for your continuing patience and understanding.

Please complete the Declaration Form by 3:00 pm on Monday, August 31, 2020.

Link to Declaration Form:

Dave Eberwein
Superintendent of Schools



A Message from the Superintendent – Stage 2 Plan Approval (Aug 26 2020)

Good afternoon Parents / Guardians,

Here in Saanich, it goes without saying that these past few months have been like no other in our educational careers – I’m sure it has been challenging for both you and your children as well.  We have been asked to adjust and accommodate to a new set of expectations on a regular basis.  However, I continue to hear of many examples in our community about how we have rallied around the challenges before us – building bridges of understanding and compassion, supporting each other when needed and finding creative ways to be successful in whatever we are doing.  It is a poignant reminder to me about me how lucky we are to work and learn in a community which cares so passionately about our schools, our students and each other.

And as we ready ourselves for another school year, we are finding another new ‘normal’.  In terms of our school district, we continue to work diligently behind the scenes to ready our schools for September -- buildings have been scrubbed, supplies have been ordered and school timetables have been adjusted where needed.  In my previous email to you, I briefly outlined our organizational plans for Elementary schools, Middle schools and Secondary schools.  You can find my message from Aug 21st on our district webpage.

I am pleased to report that the Ministry of Education has recently approved our overall re-start plan – both our Stage 2 Operational Plan as well as our district Health & Safety plan .  We have posted both of these on our school district website.  I would encourage you to visit the site to read them as there is a wealth of new information –  particularly about the extensive health and safety measures that have been put in place.   For your additional information, there is a Ministry of Education media event this afternoon at 1:30 pm.  Should there be any further information at this time we will continue to share pertinent details with you in a timely fashion.

Your school’s administration will be reaching out to parents later today and again next week as we work to finalize information on the preparations at school.  Please ensure that you check your school’s normal communications including your school’s website. 

I am very proud of the work we have done and will continue to do to provide the best possible educational experience for your children in a safe and welcoming environment.  We look forward to seeing them in September.


Dave Eberwein
Superintendent & CEO, Saanich Schools


A Message from the Superintendent – Saanich Schools Re-Start (Aug 21 2020)

Dear Parents / Guardians,

Thank you for your continuing support.  And while I know that this is a challenging time for everyone – here and around the world – I am particularly thankful for the spirit of generosity and kindness that pervades our own community on the peninsula.  We have accomplished some amazing things over these past few months and I am confident that we will continue to have an outstanding educational program for your children as we enter this new school year. 

This email is meant to provide you with some specific information about the upcoming year. 

Health & Safety

Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team at the Provincial Health Office, and in conjunction with the BC Centre for Disease Control, have put together an enhanced safety plan that both supports an in-class instructional model for our children while also providing a safe learning environment.  There have been a number of refinements to the safety protocols that schools are expected to follow – things such as mask wearing, hand hygiene stations, air circulation in our buildings, cleaning protocols and physical distancing.  An informative website to review these enhanced safety topics is BC’s Back to School Plan where you will see theses topics, and others, explored in greater detail.

Further guidelines can be found at the following websites:

Student Cohorts / Learning Groups

A significant part of the new Stage 2 Education Re-Start Plan is the introduction of Student Cohorts or Learning Groups.  In essence, they are groups of students and staff who stay together for a significant portion of the year.  Cohorts were developed because schools are controlled spaces with known occupants.  Dr. Henry has developed many different plans for other scenarios such as grocery stores, beaches and restaurants -- all of these have uncontrolled populations either in-part or in their entirety.  Schools, on the other hand, have a restricted or controlled population -- we know everyone in the building.  As Dr. Henry has pointed out, this makes a considerable difference in the planning for how the occupants of schools can be together.  The cohort model has been implemented because Dr. Henry has stated that it is sustainable, safe and manageable -- from both an educational perspective and a community health perspective.

These cohorts allow for students to be with a defined group of students within a classroom setting or other learning space.  The creation of cohorts comes with the need to potentially adjust school schedules and daily breaks, to limit cohort interactions:

Elementary Schools (Cohort size = 60)

  • At the elementary level, we anticipate very few changes to the current organization of classes with students remaining in their assigned classroom for instructional time. 
  • Recess breaks/lunch will be somewhat staggered to allow for greater distancing between cohorts. 

Middle Schools (Cohort size = 60)

  • We anticipate limited changes at the middle school level with students spending the bulk of their day with their main class.
  • Students will continue to participate in elective classes (including band) and physical education. If there are cohorts that need to share the space, physical distancing or PPE may be required.

Secondary Schools (Cohort size = 120)

  • High schools will be reorganizing into a system known as a Copernican schedule, where only two courses are taught over a ten week period.  After these 10 weeks a new set of 2 courses will be taught.  This pattern could repeat itself in the second semester if required.
  • Cohorts will be organized based on a combination of individual grades, grouping grades (e.g. Gr 9/10), combining courses which are required, or courses which are similar in nature.
  • Some separate elective courses that cannot be effectively put into cohorts may be offered outside of this model by providing instruction through physical distancing, the wearing of PPE, or perhaps in a blended or remote learning situation.
  • While the Copernican model will be the foundational structure for planning and rescheduling, each secondary school may organize differently depending on their size, course offerings and timetabling complexities.

Schools are still finalizing schedules, timetables and other details.  You can expect more information on changes at your child’s school to be communicated the week before school opening. 

Options to In-class Learning

Some parents have enquired about the option of Home Schooling or DL (Distance Learning) for their children.  Specific information on these options can be found on the Ministry of Education website to help you make an informed decision.  Should parents / guardians decide to not have their children return to our schools this fall, it is important that you communicate this to your child’s school by August 28th so that we can effectively plan for our regular opening.  Thank you.

Schools are funded and staffed based on the students who will be attending them.  At this time, should you decide that your child/children will not attend in September, we will work to maintain capacity in your child’s assigned classroom, program of choice, or neighbourhood school.  However, due to the current limitations on funding and staffing levels, we are unable to necessarily guarantee a specific placement if you request a return to in-class instruction.  As we work to maintain consistency in our Student Cohort populations, we will look to schedule new students into our schools during natural breaks such as course / semester changes or major school holidays during the year. 

Moving Ahead

We have been working diligently this summer to provide your children with an environment this fall that is enriching, welcoming and safe.  I know how important it is to have such an environment, and even more so in our current climate.  We will be providing more information for you next week, once we have our final plan approved by the provincial government.  It will be posted on our district website along with all of our previous communication with you.  Information specific to your child’s school, including student schedules and any specific accommodations that might be necessary, will be communicated with parents during the next two weeks.

We will be ready for your children when they return in September.  We look forward to welcoming them back to school. 

Dave Eberwein
Superintendent & CEO, Saanich Schools


School Re-Start Update – A Message from Dave Eberwein, Superintendent of Schools (July 31, 2020)

Dear Parents / Guardians,

As you have probably heard, the provincial government made an announcement on Wednesday about the planned re-start of school in the province.  

            Wed July 29th Provincial Media Release about School Re-start: 

Dr. Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer, and the Hon. Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, made the announcement together where they focussed on the importance of health and safety as a primary driver in their plan.  As a fundamental goal, we all recognize that students benefit greatly by being back in school.  As more data about COVID-19 is gathered provincially, nationally and globally, revised guidelines continue to be developed around how best to move forward.  Part of this evolution of protocols is the concept of students being able to work in defined cohorts or learning groups.  Dr. Henry has implemented this new idea as one that is both safe and manageable.

In her announcement, Dr. Henry indicated that all students in Grades K-12 will be able to come back to school full-time in September in defined cohorts (learning groups) at each school level (i.e. Elem = 60 students; Middle = 60 students; Secondary = 120 students).  Detailed information on the Re-start Plan, including a broader description of student cohorts, can be found on the Ministry of Education website. 

            BC’s School Re-Start Plan:

As per the announcement on Wednesday, we anticipate schools opening in September within a revised Stage 2.

As a school district, we have already begun to have discussions on what this model will mean for our schools.  District staff are beginning to explore ideas around how the cohort model may affect things like student scheduling.  In addition, we are ensuring that any new requirements within the newly revised BCCDC health and safety guidelines are implemented in a timely fashion.  

            Updated BCCDC Health Guidelines for Schools: 

We are fortunate that we have this initial news at the end of July so that we can continue to be thoughtful in our planning and communications as we move through this truly unique COVID-19 reality and its impact on our schools.  Additional information is expected from the province in August.

Our Stage 2 Plan will be available Aug 26th on our website once it has been completed and reviewed by the Ministry of Education.  Thank you for your continuing support and understanding as we work to ensure your children are both safe and receiving a strong educational program.  You can expect further communication from our district and your child’s school in the weeks ahead.  

Wishing you a wonderful rest of your summer,

Dave Eberwein
Superintendent of Schools