Parents are facing a choice as B.C. schools get set to partially reopen in June.
Attendance at the part-time classes will be optional, and Vernon, B.C., families are divided about whether their kids will be heading back to school.
“We are hearing everything from, ‘This is great. I can’t wait for my kids to get back into the school, in a classroom setting,’ to, ‘We are not ready. I’m not ready to send my children back,'” said Gladys Fraser, president of Vernon’s District Parent Advisory Council.
Those students who do go back to school will find lots of changes.
Most kids will only attend part-time, in-person attendance will be voluntary and only a portion of the students will be in the school at any given time.
Kids who have been going to school five days a week during the pandemic closure, including children of essential workers and kids who need extra support, will still be able to attend full-time.
School districts developing their own plans
Other details will vary by school district.
In Vernon, school buses won’t be running. Drivers are being reassigned to cleaning duties.
The logistics for returning students will also vary by grade with kids broken into groups so only a portion of the students attend each day.
In the Vernon School District, kindergarten to Grade 5 students will attend two days a week.
Half will be in class Monday and Tuesday and the other half will attend Thursday and Friday.
Grades 6 and 7 students will attend only once a week: half on Tuesday and the other half on Thursday.
Vernon area schools serving grades 8 to 12 will offer in-person instruction four days a week with students attending once a week.
The high school attendance groups will be determined by alphabetical order.
Going back a choice
The District Parent Advisory Council is stressing that whether to send kids back to school is a personal choice
“Parents do not have to send their children back at this point. It is whether they feel this will be beneficial to them and they are feeling okay with that decision,” Fraser said.
“If they want to wait, they are welcome to wait there will still be online learning opportunities.”
In Fraser’s case, because her immune system is compromised, her family has decided her son won’t return to class.
“I’ve been isolating and trying to maintain that, so in our situation, because of my own health issues, we are holding off,” Fraser said.
Many families are now making that type of personal calculation.
Grandmother Cindy Helfrich said she’d like to see her eight-year-old grandson head back to class.
“It is up to his mom, of course; she has the final say. If it was up to me, I think I would like to see him go back,” Helfrich said.
“We are really struggling with the homeschooling. It is harder than I thought it was going to be. It would be good for him to get to see his friends again.”
In Vernon, parents have till Friday to notify the school district through an online survey of whether their kids will be attending the first week back.