B.C. parents consider dropping kids out of school and taking on a new role - InfoNews

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B.C. parents consider dropping kids out of school and taking on a new role

August 12, 2020 - 8:00 AM

Angela Wall decided to pull her children out of the upcoming year of public school back in June when students trundled back into classrooms following a long COVID-19 related break.

“We weren’t comfortable then and it made me realize I wouldn’t be comfortable in September,” she said.

It wasn’t concern about the pandemic or getting sick that held her back.

“There is a smaller risk to kids, but there are no vulnerable people in our family — the disease itself is not our primary concern,” she said. “They were figuring things out and part of it for me, was my kids didn’t need to be there for that. They were doing fine at home, getting structured learning.”

Wall’s children will be going into Grades 5 and 7 this year, and she said she’s in a good position to help them with their studies. Her daughter has anxiety, which is also a factor.

Not knowing what the classroom experience is going to look like made her realize there were too many unknowns for her to comfortably ask her children to take on the burden of a whole new educational experience for what’s currently an undetermined period of time.

“Will they be able see their friends, and what will that look like? Will the social things be the same because that’s important for them,” she said. “I don’t want to put that on my kids’ backs.”

The fact she’s in a good position to homeschool helps, and she’s excited to see what it brings. Whether it will be permanent remains to be seen — if it works, maybe, she said, but that’s not the plan right now.

Wall said what she knows for sure is that she's not alone in this view. Talk among her circle of friends indicates the indecision about the upcoming school year is present. Her route is something she said more people are considering.

Central Okanagan school superintendent Kevin Kaardal said he’s heard murmurings as well, though nothing substantial.

He won’t know whether they will amount to a change in enrolment until closer to the beginning of the school year.

“Parents haven’t seen the local plan yet,” he said.

He understands that parents are hearing mixed messages from different health officials and school districts and provinces and they don’t reflect what the local reality is, just yet.

“We’re trying to make sure it’s as safe as possible,” he said. “We’re going to have protocols in place, we’re following the provincial health and regional health officer’s guidance.”

There will also be another option to parents who are tentative about the return to classrooms.

There may be more reliance on what’s called “distributed learning.”

Distributed learning students are supervised by qualified teachers, use school approved resources, get report cards three times a year and have to take provincial exams. It also allows parents to design their own hybrid model of school even if their children are not attending a large high school.

“In this style of learning, students can connect with their teacher from anywhere in the world on their own schedule and their own terms,” the Ministry of Education website indicates.

“Teachers use a wide variety of electronic tools to teach their students including voice and video conferencing over the Internet, email, telephone calls and others.”

Students can take one course at a time or a full course load through distributed learning.

There are currently about 28,000 B.C. students getting their education this way.

Home schooling, like Wall is embarking on, is a different deal altogether and functions 100 per cent outside the school system and it’s unfunded for the most part, Sandra Kwitkoski, a board member of the B.C. Homeschooling Association told iNFOnews.ca at the end of July.

While the role these things will play in the months ahead has yet to be fully understood, it’s clear there’s a great deal of unease and nothing is for certain.

Among other things, in the past, students going back to class would return to their previous classrooms before moving to new ones, but education minister Rob Fleming said that isn't safe now.

He also said that classes won’t resume Sept. 8, as expected.

Fleming told reporters that children will be welcomed back to classrooms in the second week of September after staff review the latest B.C. Centre for Disease Control guidelines and school operation policies for COVID-19.

"Having the restart week staged in some kind of manner that would have staff teams together for a couple days before we gradually welcome kids back to make sure that every school — all 1,500 of them in the province — are truly ready to welcome students is a good idea, and that's the approach that we'll be taking," he said.

No official date has been set for children to return to schools.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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