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Some Okanagan students about to head back to school

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Parents will have the option whether or not to send their children back to school for the remainder of the year – May 12, 2020

With the provincial government mandating school districts be ready to provide in-classroom instruction by June 1 for Kindergarten to Grade 5 students, school districts across the Okanagan have their work cut out for them

“We are going to be working diligently in the next week or so to get these plans in place,” said Moyra Baxter, school board chair for the Central Okanagan School District.

The ministry of education will release more details about the partial re-opening of schools in the coming days, but it’s expected to involve students attending school part-time to reduce the number of students in one classroom at the same time to make physical distancing easier.

READ MORE: Here’s how B.C. plans to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Part-time classroom instruction would have some students attending school Mondays and Wednesdays, and other children in classes Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Fridays would be a non-classroom instruction day.

Attendance is optional, and, according to Baxter, the first step within the Central Okanagan school district is to determine how many children will actually go back.

“That’s what we have to nail down, is what do parents feel they want to do, because that is going to direct how we move forward on this,” she told Global News.

READ MORE: Fall classes will mostly be done online amid COVID-19, some Canadian universities say

Baxter said there are many logistics to still figure out.

“We’ve got to look at every single aspect,” she said.

“Busses. Are we going to be bussing the students? If so, is there going to be social distancing on the buses. Are we going to have three journeys out to pick up the students that usually get picked up in one journey? I don’t know.”

Kelli Becraft is a Kelowna mother of two who has been home schooling her children since in-classroom instruction was suspended in mid-March due to the pandemic.

“We have been home schooling five times a week, so we go Monday to Friday,” Becraft told Global News.

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Her son Lochlan is still in preschool and slated to start Kindergarten this coming fall.

Her daughter Brooklyn is in Grade 1 and while she has the option to go back to school, Becraft said the family, like many others, are opting out.

“COVID is still out there and I think that’s a big concern. It’s not 100 per cent gone, and I do feel she’s safer home with us” Becraft said.

“I feel like we should just wait for September and see how things look, just start fresh.”

With the school year set to wrap up at the end of June anyways, some are left wondering if all the effort involved in re-opening schools for such a short duration is worth it,

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“We follow the direction of the minister of education,” Baxter said. “The ministry thinks it’s very important.

“They are very concerned for students who may be struggling or vulnerable of falling behind, they feel if they go right through the whole summer to September they will miss so much.”

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