A school bus travels through downtown Quesnel on Tuesday, June 2. Schools in B.C. reopened on June 1 with students being allowed to return on a voluntary and part-time basis. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)(Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

COLUMN: Students head back to the classroom in Quesnel School Distict 28

District management and staff continue to serve the city and surrounding area well during COVID-19

This week brings with it the next phase in the province’s plan to restart B.C. by offering students a chance to head back to school.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic put our worlds on hold, students have been out of school and staff at School District 28 have been busy trying to keep up with the evolving situation.

Staff have been achieving directives set out by the education ministry, which included that staff offer care for essential service workers, food to children and families in need and continuity of learning through online education.

Let’s keep in mind district staff, led by superintendent Sue-Ellen Miller had, to reach all these goals mere days and weeks after the pandemic broke out. The work they have been able to do in such a short time has been both commendable and remarkable.

At the last SD 28 board meeting, trustees applauded the work of the district, which has seen about 70 per cent of teachers return to the schools.

Read More: B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Since in-school instruction stopped, staff have been able to deliver more than 330 food hampers every second week to families in need, start online programs and even present a balanced budget for the 2020/21 school year.

“A lot of people have stepped up to the plate for this,” said trustee Wendy Mahoney.

“Congratulations to everyone who made this work — it hasn’t been easy.”

Miller admitted it has been a challenging time, and commended teachers for doing such a good job under very difficult circumstances.

Last week she issued a news release, noting the district’s top priority in this new phase will continue to be the health and safety of students and staff while they are at school.

As of Monday, over 975 students will be returning to school, approximately one-third of Quesnel’s student enrolment with the majority of returning students in grades K-7.

The district will provide returning grades K-5 students two days of instruction per week and students in grades 6-12 one-day of instruction. Miller said in most schools this will happen over four days each week. Remote learning support for students in K-5 will be reduced when teachers have students in class. One day per week will be designated for elementary teachers to continue remote learning and make connections with students at home.

She said at all schools students with special needs in low incidence categories and vulnerable students may be eligible to attend for up to five days per week dependent on school density. Children of essential service workers ages five to 12 will be eligible to attend five days per week.

Children who are sick must not come to school and students who develop symptoms at school will be sent home.

Physical distancing measures have been put in place in classrooms, throughout the school, and on the playground while parents requiring assistance are being asked to phone or e-mail the school rather than attend in person.

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