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Superintendent's message

Picture of Sara Salemink
Superintendent's message
by Sara Salemink - Monday, 24 August 2020, 10:11 AM

Please see the below message from our Superintendent of Schools, Dave Eberwein

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