B.C. students in need of additional support have fallen behind amid COVID-19 pandemic: report

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announces $57 million in funding for Surrey School District. Global News

B.C. children and youth with disabilities have seen their access to education diminish due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

This comes as the province prepares to announce a full return to school for most students on Wednesday.

“Two years into tracking exclusion and a global pandemic later, we are seeing this tsunami of inequity and denied access to education. All I can think is, what are the long-term effects of ongoing exclusion going to be on children like ours? Where is the accountability?” said the report’s co-author Jenn Newby.

In April, only 20 per cent of survey respondents said they were offered educational assistant support for their child. Several also noted their child’s educational assistant had already been offered alternative work by their school districts.

Read more: Over a third of B.C. teachers ‘unsure’ about returning to classroom in September

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School districts also were inconsistent in informing the families of essential workers and vulnerable kids that the schools were still open five days a week for them, according to the report.

When asked about things such as child care, education, food, mental health, respite, and technology, nearly a third of respondents said districts had provided no support.

In June, when schools reopened on a voluntary basis for all students, only 11.9 per cent of respondents’ children were attending full time.

“It is tragic that so many of our children were left behind by their schools during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Nicole Kaler of BCEdAccess, the group that released the report.

“These exclusions have increased the traumatic impact of the pandemic. There is some time to plan and we want school districts to learn from these documented failures and make changes in September.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. teachers unsure about return to classroom in September'
B.C. teachers unsure about return to classroom in September

Education Minister Rob Fleming says the working group tasked with dealing with the return of school has representation focused on vulnerable learners.

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The province helped put together programs with the school districts after the pandemic to distribute 75,000 meals a week to families. The province also worked to loan out 25,000 devices, including computers, to families without home access to the internet or virtual learning.

The province is focusing on ensuring students can catch up as quickly as possible.

“Many may have fallen behind and may need remedial supports as they progress into the next grade level,” Fleming said.

“We are very conscious this pandemic has affected people in different ways.”

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