Here you'll find all the latest updates on the return to school in September 2020.
Localized planning of the BC Government’s Back to School Plan is happening throughout the District. Updates on the planning can be found here. Detailed District and School-level plans will be shared with all families and community as they are reviewed by the Ministry of Education, but no later than August 26, 2020.
Please find the latest updates sent to parents, staff, families and the media listed in chronological order below:
Friday, September 4, 2020
Board of Education Allocating Federal Education Funding
COWICHAN VALLEY, BC – Yesterday, the BC Ministry of Education announced the allocation of new education funding from the Government of Canada. The Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District is now busy working to ensure those funds are properly distributed in a robust plan that will best serve the community.
The extra funding will help support options for families in making educational choices that are right for them. Couple this funding with the extra investment from the BC Government, and this additional support will be used to enhance remote and blended learning options, allowing students to access learning from their neighbourhood schools.
“We are grateful for the additional funding this year,” said Candace Spilsbury, Chair of the Board of Education. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the educational sector like never before. The extra funding from both the provincial and federal governments is being specifically allocated to items that will help keep our students, staff and community safe, while helping our learners navigate a new learning environment.”
District staff will now be working to enhance the Return to School and Health and Safety plans released last week.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Superintendent Robyn Gray | Letter to Parents on Learning Options
‘Uy’ skweyul, Parents, Guardians, and Families,
We continue to prepare our schools and staff to welcome all of our learners back for the start of this new school year. We know that it is vitally important that they come back to a safe, well-organized school and be received in a warm, caring, and welcoming way. This year will look substantially different than those in the past, and my previous letters have outlined the processes we are undertaking to ensure a safe return to school for everyone.
Schoolwillresumeforin-classinstructiononSeptember10th. OnSeptember8th,staffwill return to our schools and be carefully oriented to the new Health and Safety Procedures before resuming instruction. In addition, students will be gradually transitioned during their first days at school to ensure they are familiar with the new Health and Safety protocols. Dr. Shannon Waters, our local Medical Health Officer, and I recently relayed the health and safety information to parents, families, and caregivers in our letter from last week.
As a district we know that face to face learning, where learners have their teacher, support staff, peers, and social outlets, is critically important for their health and wellness. Last spring, some of our students had great success in a hybrid model of learning provided by our schools, however many did not fare as well. This is why we have worked hard to align with provincial guidelines and maintain safe and caring school environments that will focus on foundational skills, social-emotional development, mental health, and enhancing our compassionate communities. Our plans encompass all the things we care about as a society, as well as provide tools to prepare our learners for a world they will create.
In order to ensure that all parents and guardians have the information they need, the Cowichan Valley School District Restart Plan is attached to this communication. In addition to that detailed plan, this letter provides further information for all families regarding specific questions they may have, as well outlining updated district information pertaining to various programs.
If your child is currently enrolled in French immersion and you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s return-to-school plan, please connect directly with your school principal. We understand that some families may be facing a unique set of circumstances and we will address them on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is to keep our communities connected during these unprecedented times.
As in prior years, we will have Hospital Homebound support for those students with medical conditions that prevent them from attending school temporarily or for longer term.
District Learning Options: Elementary Students
For families who are seeking alternative learning options for their elementary students, there will be three additional selections available for students and families this year who may be seeking flexibility. If families do decide to choose any of the options below, they will only be able to return to their original school at a natural break such as Winter or Spring Break should the alternative option not work out as well as they hoped. This can only occur if their original school has room in the learning group to facilitate their return and staffing is available. If there is no room in their current learning group to return, we will attempt to find space in the next closest school.
Distance Learning-The Grove K-9
The Grove is a program that allows parents the option of online learning through Distance Learning (DL). If parents are choosing to not attend in person classes at their original school they may enroll in The Grove. This program is part of the Cowichan Valley Open Learning Centre and has been an established program for number of years. Should parents of students who have diverse learning needs be contemplating enrolling their child in Distributed Learning, please be aware that DL may not be able to provide the same, space, staff and resource supports they are offered at their home school.
We are also going to offer two blended learning programs for the year. These two options outlined below will be made available to those families who have exceptional circumstances:
- Students/families with unique situations (eg. Student with Immune Suppression)
- Students/families who meet the Distance Learning profile
- Or, families interested in programs that respond to their unique set of family valuesand are aligned with the District Programs’ Learning Principles
Note: If registration in the programs described below exceeds available space, the district will initiate its lottery process used for all of its District Programs of Choice.
Inquisitive Design and Technology-2 School Hubs
The Inquisitive Design and Technology Program offers students from grades four to seven the opportunity to learn through investigations supported by effective use of technology. The philosophy of the program is one where students focus on developing solutions to real world problems that are meaningful to them and related to the curriculum. This program will be offered at Drinkwater Elementary and Lake Cowichan School. You can find more information on this program HERE.
Registration for this program will be available Thursday, August 27th at www.sd79.bc.ca. The deadline for this program will be September 2nd.
Mill Bay Blended Learning Clans
Mill Bay Nature School’s blended learning Clans will provide learning opportunities (online provocations, individual face-to-face interactions, zoom gatherings / lessons /celebrations of learning, family field studies) for children and youth – ages 5 to 13 – rooted in the philosophy & pedagogy outlined in the Field Guide of Mill Bay Nature These blended learning Clans will be structured upon individual learning plans focusing first on developing the core competencies of the B.C. Ed Plan, and will require consistent, engaged participation by teachers, learners & parent/guardians. You can find more information on this program HERE.
Registration for this program will be available Thursday, August 27th at www.sd79.bc.ca. The deadline for this program will be September 2nd.
Elementary Schools: Specific Options
Elementary schools will be working closely with all families and students to support the learning opportunities that are right for them. Please contact your student’s school to discuss options that may be available at their school.
Secondary Schools: Specific Options
Secondary schools will be working closely with all families and students to support the learning opportunities that are right for them. Please contact your student’s school to discuss options that may be available at their school.
We are working incredibly hard to ensure a safe smooth transition back for all of our students this school year. We can’t wait to see you back in class this September and are looking forward to navigating this year compassionately and collectively.
Robyn Gray, Superintendent
The Cowichan Valley School District acknowledges that for thousands of years the Malahat, Lake Cowichan, Quw’utsun, Halalt, Penelakut, Stz’uminus, and Lyackson Peoples have walked gently on the unceded territories where we now live, work, and play. We are committed to ensuring a healthy educational environment for our xe’xe’smun’eem, our sacred children, that is based on science and inclusive of traditional knowledge and history.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Board of Education News Release | RETURN TO SCHOOL PLANS LAY ROADMAP FOR COMING YEAR
The Cowichan Valley School District, and all schools within, are releasing their ‘Return to School’ plans today. The plans lay out the processes each school is taking to continue to serve their communities in a safe and welcoming way through the upcoming school year.
Each plan details the Learning Group model at the school, school-specific Health and Safety guidelines, how the school will provide educational services for students with diverse abilities, and how the school will continue to communicate with parents and guardians. The school plans are built on the foundation of the School District Plan which ensures a consistent approach, while allowing for school-based decisions that will best serve their students.
The Board of Education is committed to see that every child and parent be accommodated, as best they can, in an educational program that best meets their needs. To facilitate this, two new District programs have been developed for learners.
The Inquisitive Design and Technology Program offers students from grades four to seven the opportunity to learn through investigations supported by effective use of technology. The philosophy of the program is one where students focus on developing solutions to real world problems that are meaningful to them and related to the curriculum. This program will be offered at Drinkwater Elementary and Lake Cowichan School.
Mill Bay Nature School has developed a blended learning clan model that will provide learning opportunities for children and youth from five to 13-years-old. These blended Learning Clans will be structured upon individual learning plans focusing on developing the core competencies, and will require consistent, engaged participation by teachers, learners and parent/guardians.
“The Board is incredibly proud of all the hard work that has gone into the Return to School plans. We know that teachers, support staff, and principals and vice principals are ready to welcome back their students,” said Candace Spilsbury, Chair of the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley. “We know that schools are the best place for our learners. From their foundational skills to their social – emotional learning, students do best when in school and we’re proud to offer a safe and welcoming space for them.”
All school and District plans follow the BC Government’s Back to School Plan, guidance of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Education, and WorkSafeBC. This ensures schools remain a safe place to be. Each school has emailed a letter and / or copy of their plan to all parents and guardians.
All school plans and information on all of the above programs can be found on the Cowichan Valley School District Website.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Letter to Families from Robyn Gray, Superintendent and Dr. Shannon Waters, Medical Health Officer for the Cowichan Valley Region
‘Uy’ skweyul Parents, Guardians and Families,
As the District puts the finishing touches on the plans for a safe return to school for September, we want to reach out and let you know of the work that is being done in order to protect all learners, staff, families, and our community, as the school year gets underway.
The District has worked closely with Island Health to reduce risk in our school environments for our students and staff. That collective commitment remains the number one priority. Policies and procedures are in place to ensure every school is a clean and controlled environment. A controlled environment is one where we know who is coming and going from the buildings. This allows for protocols and routines to be well known and consistently applied by those interacting in the controlled environment. In uncontrolled environments, such as a store, an employee may have interactions with hundreds of unknown people throughout the day and they do not allow for this type of security for staff or patrons.
In addition to ensuring a controlled environment, new portable hand washing stations will be available at all schools. We know that regular hand washing with soap and water is the best way to avoid transmission of many illnesses, including COVID-19. These new stations will also be supplemented by hand sanitizer and strict school entry procedures.
New backpack-style electro-static cleaners were also purchased for District custodial teams. These cleaners increase both the effectiveness and speed at which cleaning can be done by helping regular disinfectant stick better to surfaces. These cleaners supplement the already in- depth deep cleaning and surface cleaning that has been, and continues to be, done at every school.
The District has also purchased reusable masks for every student and staff member to use. These masks will be available at each school at the start of the year. If a child or staff member does not have one, or forgets their reusable mask, we will have an additional supply of disposable masks. The wearing of masks is required in areas where students are outside of their learning group or in a shared space where physical distancing is not possible (such as a hallway). Other mask use in schools remains a personal decision, and we encourage students and staff to use them as a quality choice.
On September 8th, school staff will be coming together to review the enhanced health and safety procedures, meet with the school-based health and safety teams, and finalize plans for the days and weeks ahead. Student learning is at the centre of this planning, and school health and safety protocols will be shared and reviewed by all learning groups. This will ensure a smooth transition back for students.
The District and Island Health are working to reduce risk in school environments and we are asking parents, caregivers, and families to do their part as well. Ensure a Daily Health Assessment is done, keep your children home from school if they are sick, practice physical distancing, continue regular hand washing and other hygiene measures, and respect the policies and procedures for safe building access, including parent access only by appointment.
The above procedures, coupled with classroom etiquette of no food or item sharing, ensuring reusable food items are taken home, and reminding students to remain in their learning group, will help lessen the possibility of transmission of many illnesses, including COVID-19.
If we all continue to work together, and show respect to our students, staff, and community by following the public health advice and procedures, we can reduce our risks in the school year ahead. This year more than ever, your children need us all to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.
Huy tseep q’u (thank you all)
Cowichan Valley School District
Shannon Waters, MD, MHSc, FRCPC Medical Health Officer
Cowichan Valley Region
We acknowledge that for thousands of years the Malahat, Lake Cowichan, Quw’utsun, Halalt, Penelakut, Stz’uminus, & Lyackson Peoples have walked gently on the unceded territories where we now live, work, and play. We are committed to ensuring a healthy educational environment for our xe’xe’smun’eem, our sacred children, that is based on science and inclusive of traditional knowledge and history.
Monday, August 17, 2020
Media Release – Planning for a Safe Return to School
September is fast approaching and the Board of Education has been busy organizing and planning for the new school year. When the Ministry of Education announced that schools across the province were returning to Stage 2 of the BC Government Return to School Plan on June 29, they provided every Board of Education a roadmap to help guide the planning process.
Since getting that roadmap the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District has been busy working with partners to ensure a safe return in September. The return in September will be gradual over the first week back. Schools will welcome staff back on September 8th as planned, and that will be for staff to come together to meet with their school-based health and safety teams, finalize planning for the weeks and months ahead, and adjust to the enhanced health and safety procedures before welcoming students back.
Our schools will be open and ready to welcome everyone in in September. Some flexibility in start time will allow for students to be orientated to the new look and feel of school, and learn the policies and procedures that are designed to keep everyone safe.
The Board recognizes that there are unanswered questions from many across our District; teachers, students, parents, support staff, and administrators. The Board is doing its best to ensure the localized return-to-school plan reflects the varying needs of everyone, and has options for schooling no matter the personal or family circumstance.
“We are carefully and thoughtfully working our way towards a localized return-to-school plan that will help all students and staff have a safe and productive school year,” said Candace Spilsbury, Chair of the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District. “Schools are safe places, by following the updated health and safety guidelines from the Ministry of Education and Provincial Health Officer, we can ensure they will stay that way.”
The District plan will be emailed to every parent by August 26 and posted on the District web site and social media channels.
Friday, August 14, 2020
Letter to Families from Robyn Gray, Superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District
‘Uy’ skweyul (good day) parents, guardians, and families,
Our District has been hard at work planning for the safe return of students and staff since my last letter to you. We have been meeting with our Principals and Vice Principals, our union partners, and our local Medical Health Officer and her team. We will be discussing our draft plans with Indigenous communities, District Parent Advisory Council, and our District Student Advisory Council as they develop. We want to ensure a quality plan, that is reflective of all of voices, is ready to roll out for September.
The provincial government has established the Return to School Plan and have advised that all schools in the province will return to Stage 2 of that plan for September. Within Stage 2 there is flexibility for us to localize the plan.
That flexibility will allow us to adjust how our first week back will look. We will welcome all staff back to schools on September 8th which will allow them time to come together and adjust to the enhanced health and safety procedures, meet with the school-based health and safety teams, and finalize planning for the weeks and months ahead before welcoming students back. Students will be welcomed back by September 10th and will be orientated to the new health and safety procedures. It is important to remember that school start, and the school year, will not look like it did in past years. We will work our hardest to ensure that the transition is safe and smooth for everyone while creating options for schooling no matter the personal or family circumstance.
One of the main tenants of the new school year plan is the cohort, or learning group, model. The cohort model allows us to ensure we keep our students and staff safe as they come back to school. It is important to remember that the cohort numbers given by the province, 60 for elementary and middle school and 120 for high schools, are maximums. Many of our schools will keep cohorts even lower.
There are still many questions that are yet to be answered, and not having answers may cause you and your family stress and anxiety. As part of our planning, our team is actively exploring opportunities and options that have been proposed to us. It is important to look at each of these opportunities and make sure they will work for everyone while keeping safety at the forefront.
The plan will be sent to you as soon as it’s reviewed by the Ministry of Education. It will also live on our website and social media channels. This will be done by August 26th at the latest.
Until that time, please rest assured that teachers, principals, parents, and administrators all want the same thing, a safe school year.
Huy tseep q’u (thank you all)
Robyn Gray, Superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District.