Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is developing a back-to-school plan to accommodate full-time classes in the fall. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith students will be going back to school full time in the fall, in ‘learning groups’

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools to submit back-to-school plan to ministry in August

Classes in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will resume full-time in September, says the school district’s superintendent.

The B.C. Ministry of Education announced its pandemic back-to-school plans on Wednesday, July 29.

Students will be put in learning groups of up to 60 for early grades and up to 120 for secondary schools. Different grades attended on different days in June, but Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent, said students will be returning five days a week come fall.

The district must submit a plan to the ministry by Aug. 26 and at a press conference Wednesday, Saywell said there will be a difference when forming student groups for younger and older children.

“There’s a separation, of course, between elementary schools, which are sort of naturally formed around smaller cohorts,” said Saywell. “You remain with one teacher essentially more or less in a division and a grade and that will be relatively easy to do. Now secondary poses different problems because we have students who, because of their timetables, are all over the place, so cohorting students is going to be the big issue for us.”

He said secondary principals and vice-principals would begin meeting Thursday, July 30, to discuss how to form the secondary school student groups. He said that process will take time and will involve teaching staff, counsellors and others.

“We will have to, essentially, develop a new timetable at secondary schools,” Saywell said.

Denise Wood, Nanaimo teachers’ union president, said smaller class size will be necessary come September.

“There’s just no way that a classroom can run with 30 students in it and have physical distancing, so that’s an issue…” she said. “If students are going to maintain physical distancing, there’s going to be smaller classes. Teachers don’t teach in a way where they stand at the front of the room and keep their distance from kids. That’s going to be very challenging.”

Busing plans will be unveiled along with the district’s plan submission to the ministry, said Saywell.

He said the district learned “a great deal” in June and will apply that in September.

“I think we could say that we were able to operate a school safely,” said Saywell. “I think a lesson the ministry learned was that students won’t necessarily come back if it’s optional, particularly at secondary schools … The option for parents now is to home school, do something through distance learning or [have children] attend their bricks-and-mortar school.”

Saywell said high school sports could be affected come the fall.

“It’s very early days,” said Saywell. “We’re hearing that B.C. School Sports won’t be in operation; students won’t be leaving the district . So it’s still, I think, a little bit up for debate on how we’re approaching that and contact sports versus non-contact sports. There’s a lot to that.”

When asked about provision of personal protective equipment, Saywell said cloth masks will be made available when requested.

-files from Ashley Wadhwani, Black Press

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