Schools in the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) will take the next two weeks to plan their next steps in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures. (SD61schools/Facebook)

COVID-19: Greater Victoria schools to spend next two weeks planning next steps

Vulnerable students, health and safety top priorities for school district, teachers’ association

Schools in the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) will take the two weeks after spring break for staff to plan the next steps as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps facilities closed across the region.

On March 17 – while most students were on spring break – the provincial government suspended K-12 classes indefinitely to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Students would have returned to school from spring break on March 30. Instead, staff will use the next 14 days to plan at-home education plans. The Greater Victoria Teacher’s Association (GVTA) is managing priorities day by day, says president Winona Waldron. She said currently, there is no standard for how at-home teaching will look – it will vary based on teacher and student needs.

“This isn’t going to look like learning as usual or getting through the curriculum,” she said. “Technology will look so different depending on how the teachers teach in their classroom, what kind of technology they have or what they usually use in their classroom.”

Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says in light of the COVID-19 crisis, top priorities include health and safety and protecting vulnerable students. (Facebook/Winona Waldron)

READ ALSO: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19

“It’s not just up to the teacher but up to what families need,” she added. “It’s not just a matter of moving things online for instance cause there’s no guarantee a family has technology in their home or access to the internet or they might have multiple children and one computer.”

One of Waldron’s biggest concerns with schools closed, is the loss of non-academic supports, like hot lunch and breakfast programs that many students rely on for their meals.

She said the GVTA is talking with SD61 about a plan to address those needs.

“So those [issues] are sort of taking the forefront as opposed to, how do we deliver the curriculum,” she said.

Waldron said one silver lining amid the uncertainty is the cooperation between teachers, families and school districts to address the issues caused by the virus.

“It’s quite heartening to see everybody come together … I think right now, it really has to be about being calm and thinking about, ‘OK what is the next important thing?’ We don’t need to get all the answers yet.”

On Thursday, the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) released a statement about the future for students, staff and families, writing that its guiding principles include health and safety, services for children of essential workers, support for vulnerable students and lastly, the continuity of education for all students.

For now, the health and safety of teachers and students is a top priority. Many staff and students have laptops, books, learning materials and personal items they might need to pick up from closed facilities. Principals and vice-principals will be in touch with families on how and when they can pick up items and clean out their desks or lockers.

The district echoed direction from the Ministry of Education for a careful and sustainable planning and said schools will spend the first two weeks back from spring break planning their next steps.

For now, general learning activities are available online at sd61.bc.ca. Programs focus on mental health and well-being, literacy, numeracy, physical health and passion projects.

READ ALSO: B.C. Teachers’ Federation says teachers will return to work after spring break



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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