The Surrey, B.C., school district, the largest in the province, says it will offer transition programs for students in kindergarten through to the ninth grade in order to allay fears some parents and families have had in returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Surrey District Parents Advisory Council had been advocating for a third alternative to either full time in-class instruction or full time at-home instruction in the district's back-to-school plans.
In a letter sent to the Ministry of Education on Aug. 26, the group said a flexible hybrid model would allow students to easily transition back to the classroom when they and their families feel it is safe.
In a news release, Laurie Larsen, the chair of the Surrey Board of Education, said it was "normal" for families to have some apprehension about returning to full-time school this September, especially as many students have been away from school since the shutdown over the March spring break.
Most students across B.C. are expected to return to class full time next week, with modifications in place to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are confident in our plans, but we know that many of our families are nervous," Larsen said.
In addition to the full-time in-class instruction offered at the school, the district's schools will offer a blended learning option for all kindergarten to Grade 7 students . This option is a combination of online and face-to-face learning with the goal of gradually increasing face-to-face instruction to full-time in-class instruction by January 2021.
With this option, children will still be enrolled in their neighborhood school.
For Grade 8 and Grade 9 students who are not planning to return to school, the district says school staff will work with individual families on plans for transition which may include a delayed start or reduced attendance, with a gradual transition back to full time in-class instruction. Online course options will be taught through the district's online learning school.
Grade 8 and 9 students will remain registered at their current school if they choose this option, but they will be withdrawn from their two courses in the first quarter.
Grade 10 to 12 students, the district notes, are already in a blended model with some in-class instruction and some online instruction.
Parents should register for the school program online by Sept. 4 for secondary students, and Sept. 8 for elementary students.
The district says the transition programs should be operational by Sept. 21, with an orientation for registered families during the week of Sept. 14.