Flags at Half-Mast

Canadian and BC flags have been lowered to half-mast at all school district sites in recognition of the death of former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Napier Wyndham Turner P.C., C.C., Q.C. The flags will remain at half-mast until Sept 27th and then lowered again on Oct 6, 2020 for his state funeral.

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

Q&A have been grouped into four themes:

  1. RETURN TO SCHOOL
  2. HEALTH & SAFETY
  3. LEARNING COHORTS & PHYSICAL DISTANCING
  4. STUDENT LEARNING

A. RETURN TO SCHOOL

Why are schools returning to in-class instruction in September?

Having students in the classroom helps to minimize learning gaps and provides the academic, social and emotional support essential for student health and learning.  Saanich Schools will also have the necessary plans in place to be able to shift quickly between stages if required.

The plan for September has been developed based on the advice and recommendations from the Provincial Health Officer, the BC Centre for Disease Control as well as WorkSafe BC.  These extensive precautions have been followed to ensure that health and safety measures are in place to protect students and staff.

Is it safe for children to return to school?

According to current worldwide data, COVID-19 has a very low infection rate in people 19 years old and under, and especially low in children under the age of 10.  Serological tests have confirmed that in B.C., less than 1% of all children tested have been COVID-19 positive.

Studies show that most COVID-19 cases in children originate from symptomatic adult family members, not from peers.  Even in family bubbles, adults appear to be the primary spreaders of the virus.  Children who do test positive for COVID-19 usually have milder symptoms, such as a low-grade fever, dry cough, and gastrointestinal issues. Source: B.C. Ministry of Education

What has B.C. learned from the reopening of schools in other places?

In places that have resumed in-class instruction, children do not appear to be the primary spreaders of COVID-19.  In schools where there were confirmed cases, there was typically minimal spreading beyond the initial case.

Studies have shown that closing schools and childcare facilities has significant negative mental health and socioeconomic impacts on vulnerable children (Source: B.C. Ministry of Education)

 

B. HEALTH & SAFETY

Why are safety measures in K-12 schools regarding physical distancing and masks different than what is expected in the general community?

Compared to some other community settings, schools have a comprehensive set of safety measures in place, including enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, frequent hand washing and/or sanitizing, and protocols that require students and staff to stay home if they are ill.

Schools also have a relatively consistent set of people accessing the building, and the majority of those people are children, who are at a lower risk of COVID-19 infection. In addition, the use of learning groups in schools allows for a significant reduction in the number of individual interactions and makes contact tracing easier and faster should it be required.

Other public settings do not have these safety measures in place, and contact tracing is far more difficult. As a result, there are stricter physical distancing and mask requirements for the general public.

What is the frequency and protocol for classroom cleaning?

General cleaning of the premises will take place at least once every 24 hours. This includes items that only a single student uses, like an individual desk. Cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces will take place at least twice every 24 hours. This includes doorknobs, light switches, toilet handles, tables, desks and chairs used by multiple students, keyboards and toys. In addition, any visibly dirty surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected, and garbage containers will be emptied daily.

Will playgrounds be sanitized between the different learning groups using them?

There is no current evidence of COVID-19 transmission in playgrounds. Playgrounds are a safe environment.  Playgrounds will not be sanitized after their use.  However, students using playgrounds will be encouraged to minimize direct contact between one another, and to practice hand hygiene before and after outdoor play.

How is SD63 ensuring that the HVAC systems are satisfactory?

Our Facilities Department has checked all ventilation systems and have confirmed that our air filtration systems are above provincial standards. Facilities will monitor these systems to ensure they maintain a highly efficient air exchange.

Will parents need to supply masks and sanitizing supplies?

On the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry (PHO), non-medical masks are not recommended for elementary students due to the increased likelihood they will touch their face and eyes, as well as require assistance to properly put on and take off their mask.

All secondary students will be supplied with two reusable masks for use in high traffic areas such as buses and hallways, or anytime they are outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

The decision for anyone to wear a mask in the classroom is a personal one that will be respected.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the school?

If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school, specific health protocols have been put in place from the PHO:

  • If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school, they may be given a non-medical mask and will be separated from their classmates or colleagues.
  • We will take direction from Island Health for all subsequent actions including communication to our community, potential assessment by a health-care provider, additional cleaning, and possible quarantining.
  • Schools will provide learning support to students who are required to self-isolate.
  • Together, schools and public health officials will determine if suspending in-class learning is required.

Students and staff with cold, influenza or COVID-19 like symptoms should stay home, self-isolate and be assessed by a health-care provider. Testing is recommended for anyone with these symptoms, even mild ones.

There is no role for screening students or staff for symptoms, checking temperatures, or COVID-19 testing in schools. Such activities are reserved for health-care professionals.

Will children keep their school supplies at school, or will they be expected to bring in their items daily?

Students can continue to bring personal items to school, but they should be encouraged only to bring items that are necessary (e.g. backpacks, clothing, school supplies, water bottle). Please ensure your child’s supplies are labelled to discourage accidental sharing.

What is a daily health check? When and how should I do them?

A daily health check helps us keep track of our health and monitor if we develop any COVID-19 symptoms. Parents and caregivers need to check their children for COVID-19 symptoms every day before sending their children to school. You will receive a checklist from your child’s school. Please be sure to return the first check that you do so that we have a record of it. Anyone who feels sick should use the self-assessment tool at https://bc.thrive.health/, call 8-1-1, or consult their health care provider to be assessed.

Will I be notified if there is a positive COVID-19 case in my child’s school?

Staff and families of students will be contacted if public health believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 at school, and provided with recommended follow-up steps. Staff and students not exposed may or may not be notified if there is a positive COVID-19 case in a school. This is at the discretion of the regional medical health officer. Only public health can determine if a staff or student may have been exposed.

Public health will:

  1. notify anyone who may have been exposed.
  2. provide any follow-up steps like self-isolating or monitoring for symptoms.
  3. work with school administration to decide if communications to the school community are needed.

Is it safe to share books and other paper documents?

The BCCDC states that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted via textbooks, paper or other paper-based products. As such, there is no need to limit the distribution or sharing of books or paper based educational resources to students because of COVID-19.

How were the learning group sizes determined?

Learning group sizes were determined by medical health officers across the province. When deciding on the learning group size the following criteria were used:

  • The age/maturity of children in different school types (elementary / middle / secondary)
  • The type of instruction across the different school types
  • The importance of a close-to-normal learning experience in supporting the health and development of children and youth
  • Regular class sizes
  • Contact tracing and testing capacity of public health – the sizes of the groups allow public health agencies to easily track cases through the community

 

C. LEARNING COHORTS & PHYSICAL DISTANCING

What are cohorts or learning groups?

Learning groups are a recommended public health measure to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  Organizing students and staff into learning groups helps to reduce the number of different interactions and potential exposure to COVID-19 and supports better contact tracing if there is a confirmed case in a school community.

Are children required to be physically distancing in their classroom?

In September, schools will open in Stage 2 of the five stage Framework for K-12 Education.  This stage calls for full attendance in classrooms.  Under Stage 2, the only time students and staff must regularly practice physical distancing is when they are outside of their learning group.

If students are with their learning group, minimized physical contact is expected, but physical distancing does not need to be maintained.  

In elementary schools, students can socialize with their peers in different learning groups if they are outdoors and can minimize physical contact and practice physical distancing.

In secondary schools, students can socialize with peers in different learning groups if they maintain physical distance. Secondary school students are expected to be capable of consistently maintaining physical distance when it is required.

Within Saanich Schools, a student’s class will be their primary learning group. Classroom layouts will be organized to maximize physical distancing and consistent seating arrangements will be encouraged within learning groups.

Learning groups are smaller in elementary schools due to the recognition that younger children are less able to consistently implement personal measures such as hand hygiene or reducing physical contact.

 

D. STUDENT LEARNING

If I register my child for distributed learning or home schooling, will they lose their place at their current school?

If a student who is currently attending a Saanich school registers for distributed learning or homeschooling for the upcoming school year (2020/21) that will be the child’s home school for the year.  Should you wish to change schools you would need to submit an application to the school of your choice.  As with all applications, we work to place students as quickly as possible into a school.  Placement is dependent on space availability in each school or program.

When do I have to decide about whether to choose in-class instruction, distributed learning, remote learning or home schooling for my child?

We have asked all parents to declare their intentions for their children by Mon Aug 31st so that we can accurately plan for September. 

What is the Remote Learning option?

With the funding announcement from the provincial government on Wed Aug 26th, Saanich Schools is now in a position to offer a remote learning option for students in Grades K-12.  This will be similar to the remote learning that existed in April and May this past spring.  However, there are some differences because we are in Stage 2 of the Re-start Plan. 

General Guidelines:

  1. Remote learning will focus on core academics.  
  2. Students will need to choose between remote learning and in-class instruction.  Students are not able to participate in both programs simultaneously.
  3. French Immersion support will be provided.
  4. Teachers will be assigned from the district not the home school.
  5. Students will be required to work independently and/or with adult support. All interactions with district staff will be through computer.
  6. Students will be required to provide their own laptop or tablet.   If this is not possible, please contact your student’s school to determine if one may be available.
  7. Teachers will be available at limited times throughout the week to provide instruction and support.  Exact times and schedules will be determined once student groups are created and teachers have been assigned.
  8. Where possible, students will be put into groups with same aged peers to allow for peer interaction.
  9. Individual Education Plans and Learning Plans will be followed and supported.
  10. Students will be able to leave remote learning to enter in-class learning at specific times throughout the term (¼ mark - approximately 10 weeks; ½ mark - approximately 20 weeks; Winter Break and Spring Break) and in consultation with their home school.  This is to support consistent cohorts or learning groups as well as to ensure that students will receive all of the instruction they need for course or program completion.  
  11. The District will work to provide opportunities for families who wish to have their children leave in-class learning to enter remote learning during the school year.  These opportunities will be at the same specific times of year.  Placement will be dependent on staffing and space availability.  

Elementary/Middle:

  1. Instructional focus is on Language Arts and Math.
  2. No electives will be provided.
  3. Teacher/student interactions will be electronic.
  4. Students will be placed in a group with peers of similar ages.
  5. Teachers will be assigned from the district and not the home school.

Secondary:

  1. Students will be offered two academic classes based on the quarter system.  Course offerings are limited.
  2. No elective courses will be offered.
  3. Teacher/student interactions will be electronic.
  4. When possible students will be connected with peers taking similar courses.
  5. Teachers will be assigned from the district and not the home school.

We expect Remote Learning to begin sometime during the week of September 21, 2020.

Can students move back and forth between In-class and Remote Learning?

We will have specific times during the year when students will be considered for a change in programming.  Exact dates to be determined:

  • ¼ mark (approximately 10 weeks)
  • ½ mark (approximately 20 weeks)
  • ¾ mark (approximately 30 weeks)
  • Winter Break
  • Spring Break

If students are placed in a remote learning situation, spaces will be kept open in their school should parents/guardians wish for a return to in-class learning.   This will happen at the predetermined breaks listed above.

Moving from in-class learning to remote learning will be considered as space permits.  Student groups are formed based on initial interest.  Any movement into the remote learning option will be considered at the predetermined breaks listed above.

What supports will be in place for students with disabilities and diverse abilities?

The school district will continue to ensure that all students with disabilities or those who need extra support in school will continue to receive it.

What about immunocompromised students and parents/caregivers?

According to the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), most children who are immunocompromised can return to in-class instruction when safety measures are in place.  Protective self-isolation is only recommended for children who are severely immunocompromised, as determined on a case-by-case basis.

The advice from the PHO and BCCDC for parents/caregivers of children with complex medical conditions or underlying risk factors, or parents/caregivers who are immunocompromised themselves, is to consult with their medical health care provider to determine the level of risk regarding their child’s return to in-class instruction.

Parents/caregivers seeking an alternative to in-class instruction, and who do not wish to register their child in a distributed learning program or homeschooling, will be required to obtain a doctor’s note indicating the need for accommodations due to health-related risks. The school district will work with these families to ensure continuity of learning and supports.

What are the initial proportions of students in each of the learning options?

The following percentages are approximations (as of Sept 4th) as we are still collating results from our schools who have been following up with some families:

  • In-class learning: 86-90%
  • Distributed Learning: 1-2%
  • Remote Learning: 8-10%
  • Home Schooling: <1%

We anticipate these numbers will change as the fall progresses.

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