Gina Niccoli-Moen, superintendent of School District 41 in Burnaby, has issued a letter preaching patience as plans are rolled out for education in B.C. amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
One key part of the letter says that the provincial government will be outlining its phased reopening approach later this month with more details. But, Niccoli-Moen says, the decision to return to Burnaby school buildings will be “optional” for families.
“The provincial government has already indicated that this will not be a return to normal in schools,” Niccoli-Moen writes. “All of us respect and understand that the needs of every family will be different, therefore, when students are invited into the building this school year, the decision will be optional for families.”
Here is the full text of the letter:
“Dear Families, Students, Staff and Community: As BC moves toward easing the restrictions that have impacted all of our lives, schools are a key part of the provincial government’s Restart Plan. Both the Premier and Provincial Health Officer have indicated that BC’s path forward involves a careful, step-by-step process, as moving too quickly could put all of our combined efforts and progress in jeopardy.
The Provincial Plan
On May 6, the Ministry of Education released a staged plan for a return to full in-class instruction. We anticipate that a further announcement on a phased approach will be made this month by the Ministers of Education and Health. The provincial government has already indicated that this will not be a return to normal in schools. All of us respect and understand that the needs of every family will be different, therefore, when students are invited into the building this school year, the decision will be optional for families.
The District’s Preparation
In Burnaby we have already begun to chart our path forward, as we await further clarity from the province. As I have shared in previous updates, we are already supporting children of essential service workers and some vulnerable students in our schools. In addition, we have been thoughtfully exploring with principals, teachers and support staff many ideas and modifications to in-class instruction, including a variety of hybrid models and schedules. A number of schools have been piloting programs and services in preparation for a partial return to in-class instruction.
The health, safety and well-being of all continues to be paramount. It is vital that staff, students and families feel safe about returning to schools and expanded in-class instruction. While COVID-19 is not gone, we want to reassure all of you that we continue to be diligent in ensuring appropriate health and safety standards are in place. We remain in regular contact with the Ministries of Education, Health, and the Fraser Health Authority. We take direction from them and ensure our policies and safety practices align with their guidance and protocols to keep all of us safe. As mentioned earlier, a further announcement on a phased approach to resuming in-class instruction will be made this month by the provincial government. I know you likely have many questions now about the timing and what this will look like in Burnaby. While we do not have the answers for you at this point, I want to reassure you that as we receive additional information and develop further plans, we will reach out to you. We will also provide the latest updates on our website: www.burnabyschools.ca. In the interim, remote and online learning continues for students and, if you have particular needs, please contact your school principal or teacher.
I would like to close, once again, by expressing my deepest gratitude to you: all Burnaby School District staff, students, families and community members. Your extraordinary efforts have contributed to “flattening the curve,” while balancing your own concerns about health, loved ones and the economy. I am particularly proud of how our students have continued their learning, contributions, and leadership; and of how our staff and educators are rising to every challenge. And to our parents, in particular, I want to acknowledge the many sacrifices you have made. I am truly grateful for the incredible efforts, kindness, compassion and patience of you all. Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we move forward together. I wish you, your families, and the people you care about all the very best.”