‘Parents are not expected to teach’: Key takeaways from townhall with Central Okanagan education officials

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With spring break now official over, but in-person classes still canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of uncertainty for parents, students and educators.

Central Okanagan Public Schools board chair Moyra Baxter and superintendent Kevin Kaardal took public questions about the issue in an online video forum Tuesday night.

Here are some key take away from the Q and A.

Parents are not expected to teach their kids

The district superintendent point out that while most kids will be at home parents won’t be required to home school their children.

Superintendent Kevin Kaardal said teachers will be “providing quality learning” mainly using a variety of online platforms and software.

“Parents are not expected to teach their children. Our teachers will be figuring out how to do that. In the most extreme cases where there is just not an opportunity for online support we will be providing some traditional methods around instruction and connection through either phone support or paper-based support,” said Kaardal.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Okanagan schools planning to continue learning through pandemic

Families should expect to hear from their childrens’ teachers directly in the coming days.

The district plans to phase in the alternate learning programs as to not overwhelm students, parents or educators.

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Graduation or promotion to the next grade won’t be automatic

Just because in-person classes are canceled doesn’t mean kids are on vacation.

The school district said that there will not be automatic promotion to the next grade or graduation if students don’t participate in the alternative learning programs.

Kaardal said that “teachers will be providing quality learning” and his message to students is that there is that “there is work to be done.”

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“We really encourage our young people and families to be engaging with their teachers who are working very hard to plan and then provide a quality education service,” Kaardal said.

Kaardal said that with local schools only about a third of the way through their semester the district doesn’t believe any student is in a position to graduate without further engagement.

“If they engage with our teachers and do the work they are supposed to do then, yes, we belive that every one of them will graduate,” Kaardal.

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Kaardal said in cases where teachers aren’t able to connect with a student or a student isn’t engaged with the alternate learning the district “will be looking at how we support them with councillors and others to try to connect them to the learning that is required.”

Officials still working on details of Grade 12 graduation and transitions to post-secondary

Graduating from high school and moving to post-secondary can be a challenging transition under normal circumstances and doing so during a global pandemic has raised a host of other questions.

Central Okanagan Public Schools is providing alternate learning programming so students can graduate.

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Asked if universities and colleges will recognize credits that come out of Grade 12 this year, Kaardal said he is in touch with UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College to look a solutions that create a smooth transitions for students.

Kaardal said that the district is still figuring out what school transcripts will look like this year but said that students will receive final grades and final report cards.

Kaardal said that the district is in discussion with the province about graduation requirements involving work experience which might not be possible as society implements physical distancing.

He said he expects that officials will be very flexible as they come up with alternate solutions for students to meet that requirement.

Grade 12 students will still be able to take advance placement exams as an online, open-question exam has been developed. Students will hear directly from their teachers about the details.

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Graduation ceremonies may have to be cancelled

If the same physical distancing requirements that are in place now are still in place at the end of the school year, the typical graduation events can’t go ahead in their normal form.

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School board chair Moyra Baxter acknowledged this would be very upsetting for graduating students.

“Graduation is so important to our students. They look forward to this for years and it will be very disappointing if they have to be cancelled,” said Baxter.

“We are following the direction of (provincial health officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry who has told us not to have large groups meeting … We will just have to wait and see when we get to that time of year.”

Asked if graduation ceremonies could be held later in the summer if physical distancing restrictions are lifted, Baxter said that was something school communities could look into.

“If [after the end of June] it was lifted then I think then obviously our secondary schools would be working with parents and their grad councils to see if there would be some way that they could recognize the achievements of their Grade 12 students,” Baxter said.

“It really depends on what we are being told is right way to behave.”

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The district may need to take special precautions before sending physical learning resources to students homes

While most of the alternate learning will take place online, the school district is working with Interior Health to determine whether it will need to take special precautions before sending materials home to students.

The extra caution is being considered over concerns about how long the virus can live on objects.

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“It may be that we have to actually package materials using gloves and then keep them for 72 hours before sending them out through the mail,” said superintendent Kevin Kaardal.

“We are looking for those kinds of solutions where we are required to provide a resource physically. Most resources, however, will be provided online.”

The school district will be providing some supervision for children of essential workers

The school district is still working on plans to provide or facilitated supervision for the children of essential workers.

It is expecting that supervision will be provided both by organizations like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club and by the school district.

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The service is expected to roll out by Monday for most of the 550 families whose parents work in the first tier of essential services.

In cases where students are coming into schools they will be limited to six students to a classroom and be provided with separate workstations to allow for physical distancing.

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