Spring break is ending for K-to-12 students in B.C. Now what?

Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will remain closed to students when spring break ends March 30.

But most B.C. teachers will be back on the job Monday — albeit from home — trying to figure out how to keep the learning going amid the social distancing demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That doesn't mean kids will be slammed with homework on Day 1. In fact, the opposite is more likely, as education staff work to figure out how best to roll out new models of learning at home. 

Surrey school superintendent Jordan Tinney says parents should be on the watch for communication from their child's school — which is expected sometime next week.

"We most importantly need to remember that March 30 is Day 1 for our staff returning and we need time to develop those structures before we get them out to parents," he said.

"It's not going to be the fire hose on all at once. We need to determine what learning comes first, probably with a foundation in literacy and numeracy."

On March 17, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced classroom instruction for B.C.'s 550,000 K-to-12 students was suspended indefinitely at the end of spring break because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

According to Vancouver school superintendent Suzanne Hoffman, re-establishing a connection with families and students will be a top priority.

'Hub of connectivity'

"Schools are so often crucial in communities and the hub of connectivity so we want to make sure that our students  know that their teachers and support staff are there and looking to support them," she said.

Both Hoffman and Tinney say a big piece of the puzzle will be assessing what technology students have access to, if at all.

"For some high-speed internet is the norm, others don't have internet at home," said Tinney. "So how do we get those parents of our most vulnerable learners access to technology and the supports they need?" 

Hoffman said all districts will be making Grade 12 students a priority. 

"The government has already indicated students will graduate if they are on track to graduate and we will make sure that happens for our students too," she said.

Both superintendents say they will continue to support vulnerable students.

In Surrey, nutrition programs are being offered as a grab-and-go or drive-thru service.

In Vancouver, where 3,000 students are fed at schools every day, the details are still being worked out.

"We would anticipate being able to feed children,"said Hoffman. "It may not be in exactly the same format as it has been but it's a priority. We have plans in the [works] and will announce what they will look like in the next days." 

Tinney said he understands how stressful times are for parents and says there's no expectation that they take over the role of their child's teacher. 

"We do want them to be able to help students understand directions that are coming home, the materials and point them to resources," he said.

"It's certainly a new era of having kids home for weeks and potentially months, and it's going to put big pressure on parents. That's why the staging-out of the learning carefully and slowly will be important."