The sign outside of Georges Vanier Elementary School in Newton. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

COVID-19

‘Having to re-invent the way they do their work’: What learning could look like in Surrey amid COVID-19

Superintendent hopes to ‘hit our groove’ in third week

People are going to have to be patient for the first few weeks as the Surrey school district, and the rest of the province, figures out what remote learning looks like.

On March 17, the Ministry of Education announced the suspension of K-12 in-class learning indefinitely.

But what that means for district staff, teachers, students and parents is still being figured out.

READ ALSO: Kids get back to learning in B.C., online, March 27, 2020

READ ALSO: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19, March 17, 2020

Monday (March 30), will be the first official day back after spring break for teachers and staff, but it’ll be a bit of a wait for students ready to learn.

“We’re talking about there will literally only two or three people in every school, just a principal clerical person, and a custodian. That is first and foremost to take care of their health and safety protocols and start the communication protocol,” said Superintendent Jordan Tinney.

“This announcement came out while people were on spring break, so our staff haven’t had a chance to actually come together to even talk about it.”

The first week, he said, is about the safety of all and stopping the spread of COVID-19. It’s also about connecting and communicating.

“Parents are going to have to be patient,” Tinney said. “It’s not going to be a firehose all at once. Most importantly, we need contact information and not all families have high-speed internet and email and video-conferencing capabilities, so how we attend to our vulnerable learners, our areas with poverty and access issues is going to be at the front of our minds as well.”

Tinney said the learning is going to be staged.

“Our Grade 12s are critical students right now. They’re really getting ready to grad,” he noted. “Our students who are in kindergarten and Grade 1, the early years, are vulnerable learners. We’re likely going to look at which learners do we contact first around providing some initial learning and then how do we contact all learners.”

READ ALSO: ‘You’ll have lots of questions’: Surrey superintendent’s message to Grade 12s, March 25, 2020

However, Tinney said he has “no doubt” there will be some early learning opportunities rolling out in week one.

“But remember we have over 6,000 teachers. If some teachers reach out earlier, that’s great, but we are not saying as a district, ‘OK, by Thursday morning at 10 o’clock, every student will have a learning module in their hand,’” he said.

“That’s completely unrealistic. Our hope is by the end of week one, that some learning, some very basic, initial stuff, could have gone out to some learners. Some teachers have way more students than others. You talk about a Grade 3 teacher, they have one set of kids. If you’re talking about a secondary teacher, with four blocks or band or music like that, again, teachers have different numbers of kids.”

Asked when the district could expect remote-learning to be fully rolled out, Tinney said, “But the way in which this is changing on a daily basis around the information. We just want to try to get through week one and get our protocols in place. Beyond that, I guess I would be hopeful that kind of by the third week, we would hit our groove.

“But that won’t mean it’s perfect.”

Tinney added that there are still other aspects, such as 1,500 teaching education assistants, foods classes or P.E.

“That’s so different from a Grade 3 teacher or someone who’s teaching math 9 and math 10. It’s an enormously diverse system and some subjects are just going to have to be on hold while we figure this out.”

But Surrey Teachers’ Association president Matt Westphal said “things are going to be radically different” starting Monday.

“People are also grappling with how am I going to do my job… They’re looking at having to re-invent the way they do their work.”

Westphal said teachers have been feeling “a lot of concern and anxiety” over the past couple of weeks, adding that part of that was the uncertainty initially if they would be expected to go back into the schools or not.

The district had positive COVID-19 cases at three schools just before spring break started.

READ ALSO: Surrey school reopens after one-day closure due to positive COVID-19 case, March 11, 2020

READ ALSO: ‘Vast majority’ of Surrey Schools staff will be working from home, superintendent says, March 25, 2020

READ ALSO: Surrey Schools says ‘lots of work and planning’ to do for March 30 despite no students, March 19, 2020

As for what the learning could look like, Westphal said that teachers have “professional autonomy.”

“Some people might want to shift their instruction completely online, whereas other people might think, I know a lot of my students don’t actually have internet access at home, so I want to create packages and we can figure out a safe way for those to be picked up, for those to go home.”

For the latest COVID-19 news, visit surreynowleader.com/tag/coronavirus.



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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