The Surrey school district was offering childcare for kids of essential service workers at four school sites when in-classroom learning was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an example of what one of the classrooms looked like at the time. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

The Surrey school district was offering childcare for kids of essential service workers at four school sites when in-classroom learning was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an example of what one of the classrooms looked like at the time. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

Education

Teachers’ association wants Surrey school district to have classrooms at 50% capacity

Cohort sizes are 30 for grades 10 to 12; 60 for grades 8 and 9

The president of the Surrey Teachers’ Association says the Surrey school district’s return-to-school plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic is “certainly a positive step in the right direction.”

“I think, frankly, a recognition that the provincial plan does not go far enough for safety,” Matt Westphal told the Now-Leader Friday (Aug. 20).

READ ALSO: Surrey teacher hopes Ministry of Education will change return-to-school plan, July 31, 2020

On July 29, the Ministry of Education announced that province’s plan for a return to school provincewide in September, but much of the plan was up to individual school districts.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the province was moving to Stage 2 of the B.C. Education Restart Plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Students would be organized into “learning groups” or “cohorts” made up of a “consistent group of staff and students.” Students would be assigned to groups of up to 60 for elementary school and 120 for high school.

In Surrey, the district announced on Aug. 18 that it would be submitting a plan to the ministry on Aug. 21 for cohorts for grades 10 to 12 to be 30 students, while cohorts for grades 8 and 9 would be 60 students.

READ ALSO: Surrey high school cohorts to be ‘much smaller,’ Tinney says, Aug. 18, 2020

READ ALSO: Surrey school district anticipates ‘full return’ for elementary students: superintendent, July 30, 2020

But Westphal said the association is still calling of the Surrey Board of Education trustees to open in “Stage 3.”

Stage 3, defined by the Ministry of Education, as a combination of in-class and remote learning, which has a 50 per cent density target for all schools.

Westphal said it should be the hybrid model – similar to how school looked in June – at all levels.

He pointed to the COVID-19 cases south of the Fraser River.

The latest data (Saturday, Aug. 22), shows 2,572 total cases in the Fraser Health region since the start of the pandemic. There are 386 active cases in the health region, with 39 of those announced on Friday.

“It’s going to be far worse if we have a big outbreak and then we have to shut things down if we move too quickly.”

Westphal said teachers are “extremely concerned,” adding there have been talks from some teachers about resigning or taking a leave of absence.

Over the summer, he said the association surveyed teachers and received about 2,700 responses. It included about 500 pages of feedback, with roughly 80 per cent responding that they were either “anxious” or“very anxious” about a return to school, Westphal said.

“They don’t feel comfortable coming into a classroom that’s full of young adults with no requirements to wear masks, no ability to physical distance.”

On Aug. 17, the education ministry made masks mandatory for older students in “high traffic areas.”

READ ALSO: B.C. school staff, older students required to wear masks in ‘high traffic areas’, Aug. 17, 2020

Asked how he thinks the first day of school could go, Westphal replied: “The start of school is always a bit chaotic, especially at elementary where they don’t really know until the first week exactly how many students they have because people often register that first week.”

He said that’s a “real concern” now since the district, staff and teachers aren’t sure how many parents will choose to send their children to school.

“We want parents to feel confident in the neighbourhood school,” said Westphal, adding that some families feel it’s a choice between not feeling safe while also not wanting to lose their spot in a program, such as French Immersion.

Surrey Schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney said if parents are considering holding off on sending their children back to school, they need to be “explicit.”

“When people are saying, ‘Can I hold my spot?’ We need to know what they mean,” explained Tinney.

“So for example, some people are saying, ‘Will you hold my spot in French Immersion?’… Well, if your child is in Grade 5 French Immersion, there’s no one to take that spot. There isn’t a waitlist for Grade 5 French Immersion. It really is a non-issue for us. But if it’s kindergarten, if that’s what you’re saying, that’s a whole different ball game.

“Are they saying that ‘I want to remain connected to my neighbourhood school and I’ll be back next year’? That’s super easy for us because you’re in your catchment, you’re in your population anyway. That doesn’t change anything for us. But if you say I want to retain my spot, and should COVID get better or our circumstances change in October, November, that’s a problem.”

At that point, Tinney said, schools would have already been staffed and organized based on the numbers in September.

“If you had a school of 500 students and 100 chose to stay home and said, ‘Please hold my spot in the school.’ We would still be staffing the school for 500 and we wouldn’t have the children there.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

North Surrey Minor Football players in action. The club is among Surrey-area recipients of the B.C. government’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (File photo)
COVID ‘relief’ funding for some sports groups in Surrey, White Rock, Delta

‘Without financial support, these clubs are at risk of closure,’ says B.C. government

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

Construction on the main foyer at the soon-to-be opened Clayton Community Centre. (Photo courtesy of HCMA Architecture + Design)
Clayton Community Centre opening delayed again

City says Provincial Health Order reason for latest delay

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read