With two school years affected by COVID-19, Nanaimo-Ladysmith high school students could see normalcy in 2021-22 as the school district has its sights set on returning to regular class scheduling.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools moved to a quarterly system in 2020-21, with secondary students taking two classes at a time for 10 weeks, with the same group of peers, and switching classes four times a year. While the district planned to stay the course for September, high vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases could see students returning to the semester system – four classes from September to January and four more from February to June – according to a staff report.
Furthermore, the report said the schedule will see four classes a day Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with two double-length classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Favourable feedback on the quarterly system from parents and students stated longer classes offered better relationship-building for students and teachers, the report said. However, tighter time frames, lengthier class times and limited interaction with students outside cohorts were deemed unfavourable.
Denise Wood, Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union president, said she thinks it’s better for students to have shorter classes. While some students have appreciated having just two classes at a time and some don’t have issues being in a single class for two and a half hours at at time, it is not an ideal educational situation for a majority, she said.
“It will be a lot more flexible for students to choose courses, because they were limited in only taking the classes with their cohort, so we had groups of students who were always together, almost all year long and they weren’t able to take other classes outside their cohort,” said Wood of the semester system. “That wasn’t because they were limited quarter-to-quarter, but just because of the way the timetable was set up.”
In the event that cases of COVID-19 begin to rise again, the school district said it will adapt.
“The district and schools have been very quick to adjust to any changes in the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 health and safety plans and will make changes if they are necessary prior to September, or throughout the 2021-2022 school year,” Don Balcombe, assistant superintendent, said in an e-mail.
The district has “an ability to pivot back to the quarter system,” but the cohort dynamic is challenging, according to Wood.
“I don’t think that the schedule is going to create a problem if there’s a spike,” she said. “Vaccinations are rolling out and I’m hopeful and optimistic that most high school students will be vaccinated by what I’m hearing is the beginning of October.”