All six SD50 schools returned to partial in-class instruction on Thursday, June 11, 2020, per Phase 3 of the B.C. Ministry of Education K-12 Restart Plan. (Haida Gwaii Observer file)

Furniture in the gym, arrows in hallways: SD50 staff report on return to in-class instruction

All 6 schools allowed return to partial in-class learning June 11; Staff submitted reports June 18

Some SD50 students did join their teachers for a few days of class before the end of the school year.

A June 5 letter sent to parents by superintendent Carey Stewart, included in the package for the regular school board meeting on June 23, thanked parents for their patience as the board prepared to move into Stage 3 of the B.C. Ministry of Education K-12 Restart Plan the next week.

Stage 3 of the plan includes the optional return to in-class instruction for students between kindergarten and Grade 5 two to three days per week, one day per week for students between Grades 6 and 12, and five days per week for children of essential service workers, students with disabilities and diverse abilities, and students who require additional supports.

Stage 3 of the plan also includes a school density target of 50 per cent for students between kindergarten and Grade 5, and 20 per cent for students between Grades 6 and 12.

ALSO READ: Haida Gwaii teachers heading back to empty classrooms on June 1

“The government of B.C. and the health authority have been clear that it is safe for a gradual return of students, and this thoughtful approach will be essential in helping more of our community families, while preparing for (hopefully) a complete return in the fall,” Stewart wrote in his letter.

“The district has spent time with partners (HGTA, CUPE and PVP) to develop health and safety protocols for the district and schools to limit risk, and protect students and staff as the numbers in the buildings increase.

“It is also important for parents to know that attendance is voluntary for their child, the remote learning version will continue to be offered. School administration will need to align their staff in a way that best serves the students.

“Our work in this stage will be critical in building our capacity for the future and critical in helping our families re-engage.”

VIDEO: Haida Gwaii high school grads celebrate with drive-in ceremony, parade

Board chair Roeland Denooij told the Observer all six schools returned to partial in-class learning on June 11.

Denooij said he had personally visited schools throughout the district and was pleased to report that all required safety measures were in place.

“Handwashing stations, social distancing, and monitoring of staff and students for signs of illness is fully in effect,” he said. “Although the schools feel quite different from pre-COVID models, staff and students [were] excited to be back at school and are looking forward to resuming again in September.”

ALSO READ: 157,000 students returned for part-time lessons at B.C.’s schools: education ministry

Reports on how the restart went, submitted by staff at all six schools on June 18, were also included in the board package.

Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary principal Leighann Rodger wrote that approximately 60 students out of a total population of 146 had returned to partial in-class instruction, attending school two days per week, with a maximum classroom group size of about nine students at a time.

“Many students are continuing to work from home. Teachers are balancing the remote learning with the classroom learning,” Rodger wrote.

She noted that the school mailed a package to the homes of Grade 7 students, including a t-shirt and some items to have celebrations with their families.

Rodger was also one of several staff to note having to put extra furniture in the gym after reconfiguring classrooms to allow for social distancing.

Tahayghen Elementary principal Verena Gibbs reported an average of 25 students a day attended in-class instruction out of a total population of 68 — “a little wiggle room before they hit the 50 per cent mark.”

“Much of our furniture has been moved into the small gym and hallways and classroom entrances are directionally marked,” Gibbs wrote, echoing Rodger.

Agnes L. Mathers Elementary reported between 10 to 13 students out of 22 had been attending throughout the first week of Phase 3.

The elementary school also reported holding its annual garden party on June 18 and a Grade 7 recognition ceremony on June 24.

At the garden party, the youngest and oldest students, Lillian Houston and Jordyn Zarry, respectively, ceremonially planted a perennial to honour Agnes L. Mathers.

Immediate family members and grandparents of Grade 7 Agnes L. Mathers Elementary School students Jordyn Zarry, Kingston Houston, Moana Houston and Gregory Putterrill were invited to attend a recognition ceremony on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 outside the school gazebo in Sandspit. The ceremony recognized the students as they prepare to transition to high school, and the students were ceremonially given drums that they made while attending Agnes L. Mathers. (Agnes L. Mathers/Submitted photo)

Port Clements Elementary vice-principal Sarah Finnie said they split their school day into mornings and afternoons, with 15 of 18 students attending in either group.

“Classrooms have been designed to maintain physical distancing where possible and the extra furniture has been moved into the gym,” Finnie wrote.

She also said the school was working on a video for students and families to outline the new practices, a drive-in, year-end slideshow event with two show times was planned for all students, and Grade 7 students had planned a parade on June 25.

Several residents made signs to recognize Port Clements Elementary School Grade 7 students Daris Peerles and Agua Gomez- Bull, who paraded around town in the back of a truck to mark their transition to secondary school next year. (Port Clements Elementary School/Submitted photo)

Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary principal Ian Keir reported that Grade 8 students were able to voluntarily attend on the remaining Mondays (June 15 and 22), Grade 9 students on Tuesdays (June 16 and 23), Grade 10 students on Wednesdays (June 17 and 24), Grade 11 students on Thursdays (June 11 and 18), and Grade 12 students on Fridays (June 12 and 19).

“Without the regular face-to-face interactions, it has been difficult to keep students connected,” Keir wrote, adding that there was minimal attendance for the first few days of Phase 3.

Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary principal Deavlan Bradley also said their high school was operating at one grade per day and that social distancing was difficult to enforce.

According to the SD50 calendar for 2019/2020, the last day of school was June 25.

ALSO READ: School teacher tests positive for COVID-19 as B.C. sees two new deaths, 20 cases

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