How BC schools are planning a possible switch to e-learning as the threat of staff shortages looms


With most K-12 students across the province spending an extra week at home after the holidays, administrators and teachers are busy formulating backup plans if large numbers of staff go sick. due to exposure and infection to COVID-19.

Last week, the province announced a staggered return to school in January due to the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in British Columbia, and administrators say they were told to use that time to prepare emergency plans.

“We’re having a very different kind of pandemic right now and it happened very suddenly,” Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said.

“We can anticipate, given what other industries are experiencing in terms of impact on the workforce, that we may well be feeling an impact… in education that could be disruptive.”

Each school district will make their own emergency plans, but to give parents an idea of ​​what to expect, CBC News spoke to BC’s largest: Surrey.

According to District Superintendent Jordan Tinney, schools in Surrey will enter a “functional closure” once there is not enough staff to provide proper care and education for students.

Functional shutdowns are nothing new, he says, adding that they often occur due to unexpected events like snowy days, power outages or ruptured water pipes.

“I think what’s different is all the events we can predict,” he said.

“Knowing what we know about Omicron, the province thinks you can anticipate large-scale absenteeism,” he added.

“So they say use that time to actually plan… if you were to close this school for a period of five or seven days, what would that be like? “

Gradual closures

In Surrey, functional closures would be implemented in three “phases” over three days.

The first day, according to Tinney, is “launch day” – when administrators determine that there are not enough teaching staff, and not enough administrators, custodians, support staff and drivers. bus. In this case, the school would notify parents and guardians of the closure.

There is no minimum number of staff to indicate when a functional shutdown would go into effect, with schools deciding whether staffing levels are sufficient to provide proper instruction and care.

“At the end of the day, do we have enough to oversee and provide education and to keep the school clean and functional? Tinney said.

Functional closures in the Surrey School District would result in a complete school shift towards e-learning if there were not enough staff to provide proper care and education. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Day 2 is a designated preparation day for teachers to switch to online teaching, when the school will ensure that students have the materials and materials to learn virtually from home. The students, in essence, would have a day off.

On day 3, online education would begin for students at the affected school.

The functional shutdown would last until staffing levels rebound, said Tinney, which he said would take about five to seven days.

Jatinder Bir, interim president of the Surrey Teachers Association, said it would be a difficult task but one that may soon be necessary.

“We [wouldn’t] have the appropriate support to support our children who come to school. And so, therefore, you will have to implement a functional school closure, ”Bir told CBC’s Gloria Macarenko on Tuesday.

The president of the BC School Trustees Association says she is confident schools will open next week and students can return to class.

She said that despite individual emergency plans, every school in the province shares the same goal – to prioritize in-person learning.

“We have a lot of tools and a lot of experience that will serve us well in this next wave,” BCSTA President Stephanie Higginson told the CBC show. The first edition.

She said schools will bring back some safety measures next week, such as staggered recess and lunch times, restricting visitors to the school and suspending extracurricular events or tournaments that bring together large groups of children.

“Everyone wants children to be in school”

Not all districts provide for the potential closure of entire schools.

Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, said she plans to switch only affected classes to online learning when a teacher is not available in person.

“Everyone wants kids to be in school. We all want to go to school and not teach online,” said Waldron. “But how do you mitigate the risks at the same time? “

Regardless of what a functional shutdown in Victoria will look like, Waldron says inconvenience is likely and is a grim reality in the current pandemic.

She adds that missing school, both for staff and students, will have an impact on educational programs.

“I think we have to be aware that we can’t go through the whole program, maybe,” she said. “There will be student absences … and that is having an effect.”


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