The students of Sun Peaks Elementary School have returned to the classroom with a new appreciation for their teachers, according to school principal, Mike Johnson.
On June 1, the education sector entered stage three of a five stage plan to resume in-class instruction, which allowed students to return to school part-time at their parents’ discretion.
“We’re back up to 50 per cent of the students, 50 per cent of the time,” Johnson explained. “So, we’ve got one group that comes Mondays and Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and another group that comes 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.”
Online and remote learners are engaged between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday.
Johnson estimated that 75 to 80 per cent of Sun Peaks Elementary School students had returned to the classroom, with the remainder continuing to receive full-time online learning.
Stage Two of the province’s Education Restart Plan would see students from kindergarten to grade seven return full-time, with secondary school students back half-time and Stage One is K-12 students in school five days a week.
Sun Peaks Secondary Academy students currently have access to “an in-person learning environment one day a week, with reduced hours,” stated Jenny Hawes, president of the Sun Peaks Education Society.
For those returning to the classrooms, there are some changes in place.
“We’ve set up a bunch of strict health and safety protocols around making sure it‘s a safe place for them to return,” Johnson said.
“Lots and lots of hand washing, lots of teaching about hand washing, lots of teaching about physical distancing,” he added. “But even with all those things, I think the kids are enjoying being back at the school and seeing their teachers and friends.”
It remains uncertain, though, what form education will take once students return from summer vacation in the fall.
Johnson said he wasn’t able to predict what permanent changes to learning technologies and methods there would be moving forward.
“I think there’s so much change happening at the moment, and I think things will change because of it, but I don’t know what those changes will be yet.”
“I do think a lot of kids realise how important it is to have a teacher and how much they appreciate having a teacher right in front of them,” he continued. “Beyond that, I think it’s too early to speculate.”
When students left for March break they didn’t know it would be over two months before they would re-enter their classrooms. With the B.C. Ministry of Education’s decision to cancel in-class instruction on March 17, teachers in Sun Peaks—and across the province—were left with the task of engaging their students through distance education.
“It was a learning curve for everyone; no one had done this before,” Johnson said.
“They used a lot of Google Classroom,” he explained. “Some of the teachers of the younger students made up packages for the kids and delivered them for the students to work on. They (also) set up videos of how to do certain things, and what it would look like, to help the parents as well as the kids.”
Johnson expressed he was impressed with the efforts of both teachers and parents in Sun Peaks.