Last year, staff and parents in most school districts in Canada were confused.
Teachers, students, parents, and school staff were vocal about confusing (and sometimes last-minute) changes to how children were going to be educated. Some schools went virtual while others stayed in class with cohorts. Some schools were remote enough to keep children in school without mask mandates and others were in school, but fully masked Grades 4 and up.
"It's hard to give specifics now" said SD54 Superintendent Mike McDiarmid. "Normally, we bring the teachers in ahead of time before the kids arrive to discuss new protocol and safety where teachers can share their concerns about the upcoming year."
"Kids last year were over the moon to come to school [in SD54] and I'm sure they will be again this year," McDiarmid said in regards to a sense of normalcy in Smithers' schools this September.
Protocols and provincial regulations have made it difficult to nail down a specific way of learning this year, but McDiarmid said that School District 54 is not employing the use of cohorts, where students are grouped into learning arrangements who begin and complete learning experiences with the same students throughout most of their time. Typically students are in a grade or class which is their cohort whereas COVID-19 in school often broke up classes by last name alphabetized to limit students in the classroom on a given day.
"Even though we have a mask mandate Grade 4 and up, students will be in full classes," the superintendent said.
Health checks will be run every day and the schools will be cleaned daily. For schools in Smithers, ventilation systems were also updated to ensure cleaner air in the school buildings.
Listen to the following clip from SD54 Superintendent Mike McDiarmid about school expectations for students in Smithers, BC: