Teachers’ union is unhappy with last-minute changes to school restart plan without an opportunity for teacher feedback
The plan to send most students back to classrooms this September is getting straight-As from some and poor marks from others.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation, which is represented on the government’s planning committee, came out strongly against the plan on Wednesday, complaining several key decisions were made at the last-minute and without input from the union.
Chief among them the plan for high school students to return to class full-time, when until Tuesday the proposal had been a half-time return.
“A lot more work and planning needs to go into this model in order to ensure it is going to work in September,” president Teri Mooring said.
The ministry’s plan also calls for students to be divided into learning groups of up to 60 kids in elementary schools. In secondary, the groups will number up to 120 students, who will have common break times but could be in classrooms with members of other groups. The union said it learned of this idea late last week.
“That … model came from the provincial health office, but there’s been no conversation (with teachers) about how that will translate to a school setting,” Mooring said.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said the groups may make it necessary for some high schools to move to a semester system, but Mooring there has not been sufficient discussion about changing timetables. She also wondered whether elementary class sizes will need to be reduced to accommodate a two-class, 60-person bubble when support teachers and other adults need to be included.
Additional questions that have not been answered yet, Mooring said, is how to provide remote learning to students who don’t want to come to school or to those who may have prolonged absences because they have a bad cold.
However, Mooring remained optimistic that answers can be hammered out in August so parents have certainty for September.
Jason Ellis, a University of B.C. professor, called the ministry’s plan “ambitious” and noted it is important that kids can safely return to classrooms.
“For their own learning to be interrupted for so long will have long-term consequences. And it’s vitally important to them socially because school is where they interact with their peers,” he said.
Ellis does have some questions, although he didn’t think finding answers will be insurmountable, including: How will elementary teachers’ daily prep times be affected by the 60-person bubbles? And the current plan seems to assume that most parents will send their kids back to school in September, and does not seem to contemplate hiring additional distributed learning teachers.
Eric Hennessey is a Vancouver father of three children going into grades 6, 8 and 9. He is supportive of the ministry’s return-to-class strategy.
“I think it sounds like a reasonable plan. I’m a bit dubious about whether the 120 contact social circle is small enough,” he said.
Hennessey also wonders if younger children in elementary school will be able to follow the rules limiting them to a social group of 60 kids, but believes officials will make changes if they are required.
It is nice to see in-school classes resume, he added, for parents who found it difficult to juggle working from home while home-schooling their kids. Also he noted the curriculum taught in the spring had “slim content” – so he looks forward to having classes as back to normal as possible this fall.
Burnaby parent Ida Gazzola, the mother of seven children, said she and her kids were excited by the news.
“I’m feeling pretty confident with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s decision because I developed some confidence with her over these past few months in her ability to keep us safe. So I feel good about it. I think the biggest thing for us parents is to kind of accept that our normal is not going to be static, it will be changing,” she said.
Gazzola plans to speak with her children about maintaining healthy social-distancing at school. She said, and notes that she can always remove them from class if she becomes worried.
The Vancouver school board declined an interview request Wednesday, but sent a statement saying district staff will develop plans for September based on details released Wednesday by the ministry and will communicate them with parents before classes resume. The Surrey school board did not respond to our questions.
Families will hear from school districts by Aug. 26 with specific information about their local schools, the education minister said.
Original Link: https://theprovince.com/news/parents-teachers-academics-react-to-schools-re-opening-in-september/wcm/bd6192dd-3dc8-49d9-b6fd-4825e001dd4f