Thousands of North Van, West Van students head back to classrooms

Grade 6 students keenest to return to school provincially, Grade 12s least interested

Thousands of students across the North Shore headed back to class this week for the first time since March.

For many students, the return to the classroom was a September-in-June kind of experience, with a first day of school excitement.

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Some kids heading back to Lynn Valley Elementary School – where 80 per cent of students are returning – said they woke up extra early Monday morning, eager to see friends and teachers again.

Rekindling those social connections and fostering mental wellbeing, along with plenty of outside time when weather allows, will be part of what teachers are stressing this month, said Lisa Dalla Vecchia, spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

About half of students in local elementary schools and in West Vancouver high schools have opted to go back to school this week – a number consistent with other Metro Vancouver school districts.

Across the province as a whole, about 30 per cent of students are returning to school this week, said Education Minister Rob Fleming on Tuesday. Just under 60,000 students across B.C. returned to the classroom on Monday.

Grade 6 students were the keenest to return provincially, with over 48 per cent indicating they’ll be back in the classroom. Graduating Grade 12 students were the least interested, with less than 15 per cent planning to return to school this week.

Fleming said one of the reasons for kids getting a chance to go back to the classroom is concern that some students aren’t doing well with remote online learning – particularly younger children. When asked, kids themselves also report “very high levels of disengagement,” said Fleming.

schools reopen Lynn Valley
Principal Chanin Smyth greeted students returning to Lynn Valley Elementary school on Monday. photo NVSD

Returning elementary students in both North Shore school districts head back to the classroom in two groups this week. One group attended Monday and Tuesday and the second group will attend Thursday and Friday, with extra cleaning of the schools on Wednesday. Grade 6 to 12 students in West Vancouver will attend school one day a week.

For many high school students in North Vancouver, however, a return to the classroom isn’t necessarily in the offing – unless they make special requests.

Rather than invite all high school students back one day a week for a scaled-down version of their timetable, the North Vancouver School District is choosing to concentrate classroom time on students most socially vulnerable or most at academic risk.

Fleming said Tuesday the government won’t make a decision on what school will look like until the latter part of August. The government will plan for all contingencies, said Fleming, including the option of a hybrid system of education that combines online and in-class learning.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province's chief medical health officer, said Tuesday it's too early to say what school in September will look like, but it's most likely to be a hybrid model, with more classroom learning.

"There's good evidence that shows that particularly for some children, having that in-classroom learning environment is incredibly important," said Henry.

Henry has said so far there appears to be little risk of children contracting COVID-19, getting sick from the virus or transmitting it to others.

“It’s clear around the world that [children] are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than adults,” said Henry recently, adding that’s proved true for B.C. as well.

In B.C. as a whole, 28 cases – or one per cent of all COVID-19 cases – have been in children under 10, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. In older children and teens between 10 and 19, there have been 52 cases – or two per cent of the COVID-19 cases – in the province.

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