SD 10 superintendent’s report: A ‘normal’ back-to-school this fall?

·3 min read

COVID rules changing?

A year after the spread of the COVID-19 virus disrupted school districts (and the world), the provincial Ministry of Education had some hopeful news for students, families and their employees.

SD 10 Superintendent Terry Taylor says officials were recently updated by senior bureaucrats regarding planning for next September.

“Districts have been advised that based on public health guidance, the ministry is planning for Stage 1 – In Class Instruction, most likely without cohorts in September,” she told trustees at a March 9 board meeting. “Public Health assessment is that by that time, the majority of COVID vaccinations will have been administered and rates of transmission are anticipated to be very low.”

Additional health and safety restrictions will likely be added to the current phase one plans, she added.

There’s even the possibility that there may be graduation ceremonies this summer, “as Public Health and the ministry are looking at controlled gatherings with strict health and safety guidelines,” she said.

However, schools are being urged to make alternative arrangements for grad ceremonies, given there’s no way to predict where public health orders are going to be a few months from now.

“Similarly, the ministry is working with Public Health on school sport and community sport guidelines and anticipate updated guidelines to be developed,” she told trustees.

Further information will be provided to districts enabling planning for the next school year in the coming months.

After-school childcare

As part of the federal Safe Return to Class funding, the school district will be offering free after-school childcare focused on arts and sports at Edgewood, Burton and Nakusp Elementary school, as well as Lucerne in New Denver.

“We are excited to be able to provide these supportive after-school learning opportunities and childcare for our K-7 students and families through this year’s COVID funding,” Taylor told the board.

Each school principal and vice principal has led the work reaching out to K-7 parents to assess interest and need at their schools, and have contacted local artists and sports and recreation folk to create exciting after school programs.

The district will also provide late bus transportation and healthy snacks to support greater equity and access to these programs designed to foster physical and mental well-being for students.

For secondary students, the district’s mental health outreach coordinator has created programs for Lucerne and NSS secondary students – small groups and anime are the two areas of support.

All after-school programs will be offered in compliance with school COVID safety plans.

Nakusp childcare centre news

Demolition of the two old portables at NES will begin over spring break, Taylor told trustees. The Request for Proposals for the project will be released for bids March 9 and open until April 6. Construction is planned to start in mid-April and be at lock-up and rough-in by fall 2021.

Lowering enrolment?

There could be fewer students in SD 10 schools in two years’ time, according to the school board’s data models.

Taylor told trustees the school district annually submits enrolment projections for the coming three years to the ministry. Early funding grants levels are set based on those projections.

The numbers show a drop in the next three years, from 524 students today to 469 next September. By September 2022 that drops further to 440 students.

The number of students with unique needs remains the same (8%). The number of aboriginal learners falls slightly (from 20 to 18%). The biggest drop is in distance learning, projected for about 10 less students, which is down about one-quarter.

“Enrolment projections have proven to be relatively accurate most years, though second and third year projections are less reliable,” cautioned Taylor. “Projections can also change – they are our best estimate based on what we know in early February.”

Meanwhile, the district saw a small bump in the number of students attending school or distant learning through SD 10 in the last month. The biggest increase was in distance learning students.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice