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All Burnaby high schools moving to semester system next year

School officials say having all schools on semester system will allow them to 'pivot easily' with pandemic

Students at five Burnaby high schools are in for another big schedule change next year – even if COVID-19 numbers allow schools to move back to regular full-time, in-class instruction after the summer break.

All local secondary schools are moving to the semester system for 2021-2022, according to a report presented at a school board meeting Tuesday.

That will be a switch for students at Burnaby North, Burnaby South, Moscrop, Cariboo and Burnaby Mountain, who were on a linear system and taking eight courses that run for the whole school year before the pandemic hit in the middle 2019-2020.

Alpha, Burnaby Central and Byrne Creek were already on the semester system, taking four courses for the first half of the year and then another four for the second half.

All high schools moved to a quarter system – two courses taken each day for 10 weeks at a time – in September, when students finally returned to school full time under stage 2 of the ministry of education’s K-12 Education Restart Plan.

Assistant superintendent Jeannette Laursoo told trustees at Tuesday’s online board meeting that the quarter system works well in stage 2.

“In Burnaby, it provided in-class, full-time instruction for the maximum amount of time possible with learning groups while still maintaining student choice in core and elective courses, which was particularly important at the Grade-10-through-12 level,” she said.

Although the district is hopeful it will be in stage 1 (full-time, in-class instruction with no cohorts or learning groups) next fall, Laursoo said there is “still a degree of uncertainty around COVID-19.”

And moving all high schools to a semester system will allow school officials to “pivot easily” between the stages.

“At this time, we’re only looking at the 2021-2022 school year,” she said. “We will continue our collaborative approach by engaging students and staff, parents and our partner groups, as well as gather feedback and data to inform our planning beyond 2021-2022.”

Trustee Bill Brassington asked Laursoo if the district was leaning toward the semester system beyond next school year, given its flexibility amid a pandemic.

 She said part of that would depend on the public health situation.

She also noted many students, teachers and parents will have had experiences with multiple systems by that time.  

“It will be particularly interesting to get the feedback from people who’ve experienced multiple systems to see where we should head beyond that,” she said.

The transition from stage 2 to stage 1 will be less complicated for local elementary school students.

They’ll simply return to school in person, full time in September, with no more learning groups – the only change being staggered start, dismissal and break times, according to the report.  

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor