The Ministry of Education says it’s looking for a complete return to classes in September for students, many of whom are now learning at least partly from home because of the pandemic.
“Our goal continues to have as many students learning in-class as possible,” the ministry said in a statement. “While much depends on the vaccination rollout, we are optimistic we can start September in Stage 1 — with a full return to in-class instruction.”
Right now, students in elementary and middle schools largely attend school full-time, although some have staggered start times, while many secondary schools are on a “quarter system,” where they take two in-class courses over 10 weeks, ending up with eight in a year.
The goal of the system is to reduce the number of people in the school at any given time.
A return to a regular schedule would be a nice change, said Jodi Whiteman, who has a son in Grade 9 at Lambrick Park Secondary and serves as secretary for the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils. “We’ll see in the fall — it’s really quite far away.”
Greater Victoria School District superintendent Shelley Green said a full return to school could come in stages. While it’s hoped that elementary and middle school students will be back to a pre-COVID normal system, many secondary schools will likely plan to begin the year with the quarter system, then “pivot back” to a regular setup by the second semester, Green said. “That’s kind of what’s on people’s radar right now.”
Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Winona Waldron said teachers are in favour of starting secondary students with the quarter system in September. “I think it will be easier to transition the other way than the scramble we had last year summer right before school started, trying to get the quarter system set up,” she said. “We’re hoping to get back as soon as possible to normal.”
Whiteman said one of the challenges with the quarter system is that the schedule was “kind of all over the map.” “Sometimes students would go in in the morning, sometimes they’d go in the afternoon.”
Dealing with the amount of course content has been manageable, “although it was a lot of information to take in all at once with such a short period of time,” she said.
Her son’s one complaint about COVID-19 requirements was doing workouts with a mask in physical education, Whiteman said.
Scott Stinson, superintendent of the Sooke School District, said the ministry has told school districts to be prepared for business as usual in September, but to have a contingency plan, as well.
Changes at the elementary- and middle-school level could be about who gets access to particular parts of the building and how students move around during the day, he said.
“With the announcement around the hope that everyone that wants it will have a vaccination by the middle of July, it may open up opportunities for us to return to things a little bit more normally in September,” he said.
Stinson said the district is gathering feedback about what’s been learned during the pandemic that the community would like to keep.