School district expects half of students back

Physically distanced graduation will be filmed June 6 at Elphinstone

About half the approximately 3,250 students who attend School District No. 46 (SD46) are expected to return to school the week of June 1.

Two-thirds of parents responded to a survey circulated by the district in advance of the provincially mandated back to school date, according to superintendent Patrick Bocking. “We’re really pleased and really appreciate our parents responding to that; it really helps us,” he said.

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Of the 2,012 respondents, 1,189 said they were not planning to send their children to school in June. The numbers are consistent with other districts, said Bocking, who reviewed results May 26.

“The 50-50 is where it’s hovering,” he said.

Children from kindergarten to Grade 5 will be attending school two days a week and higher grades will attend once a week. Bocking said parents were expected to receive precise schedules by May 29. “The big question for us is exactly how many kids are we going to have on Monday.”

A restart plan for the district has been submitted to the Ministry of Education, as required, and Bocking said he is hoping to have similar bus routes in place as before.

Strict sanitization procedures will be in place, and to reduce the risk of transmission, visitors are being restricted from attending the schools – including parents.

“Not having parents come into our schools is very not the culture and the climate and the belief we have in terms of partnership, but in the context of the global pandemic, it’s really important we do everything we can to protect our students and our staff and our community, so that’s one of the measures, is restricting access to our sites to anyone other than who absolutely has to be there,” Bocking said.

Those restrictions will also be extending to graduation.

This June, rather than congregating in auditoriums at high schools up and down the Sunshine Coast, the district has hired the film production company GradsBC to spend a day filming a likeness of the usual event, with plans to “broadcast” the graduation videos on a specific date, said Paul Bishop, director of instruction at SD46.

The project will cost approximately $60 per student, which is “well within our expectation of the cost of putting on regular grad ceremonies,” he said, since costs are being saved on equipment rentals, staff and other expenses. “It’s actually a great savings,” he said. 

Grads will arrive on location – Elphinstone Secondary School – for photographs in their formal wear or cap and gown. One by one, they’ll perform the stage walk to receive their graduation certificate, and “even the cap toss at the end” will occur, said Bishop.

“All of it will be filmed with small groups of students coming in at a pre-arranged schedule.” Families will not be allowed to watch the proceedings from inside.

Videos will be produced for each school, including valedictorian and other speeches and bursary and scholarship announcements.

Normally, Eastlink Community TV broadcasts the event, but this year, the videos are expected to be broadcast at a specific time through the School District’s YouTube channel. “We’ve had a great partnership with [Eastlink], but this particular production company is able to handle the unique circumstance that we have,” Bishop said.

The filming will take place June 6. Videos are anticipated to be made public the week of June 22, which is when graduation ceremonies normally occur. “I’m hoping families will come together for viewing ceremonies in their homes to watch it all at the same time,” Bishop said.

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