Return to school will likely see some ‘bumps’

As a part-time return to school nears for students across B.C., the president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association says she’s expecting a few hiccups.

“I think everybody is doing everything they can to make it go seamlessly next week,” said Winona Waldron. “But there’s going to be some bumps as we try to figure out how to get five-year-olds into rooms where they’re seeing their friends for the first time in a couple of months.

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“They want to go play like normal and normal is just not the thing.”

Schools reopen Monday for the first time since face-to-face instruction was suspended on March 17 amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The opening is on a part-time basis for June only, and attendance is optional.

Waldron said after meeting with representatives from all of the Greater Victoria School District’s 47 school sites, she’s optimistic about the relaunch. “Mostly people felt like they were ready.”

Safety measures have been fine-tuned in recent days, which has been “a real push” for teachers, said Waldron, whose association has about 2,000 members.

One of the most inspiring things has been the way teachers are helping each other out, she said.

For those who have concerns about teaching during the pandemic or who haven’t been able to arrange childcare, colleagues are stepping up to cover for them when classes resume, she said.

“There’s been some really collaborative stuff,” she said. “I’m really thankful that the district has allowed teachers to do that problem-solving without telling them how to solve it.”

One thing that will be prominent in classes is strict spacing around desks, which have to be two metres apart, Waldron said.

“There’s a lot of health-and-safety protocol to go through with kids, with teachers before they enter the building,” she said. “That stuff is still rolling out.

“Everybody has been scrambling to get everything in place.”

Preparing schedules has also been a big task, Waldron said, with staggered start and dismissal times, lunch hours and recesses, particularly at elementary schools.

Changes have had to be made as more students wanting to return to school come forward, she said.

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