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Trustees to debate extending online learning

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:52 PST, Fri March 5, 2021

Richmond school trustees will determine next week if students will be able to continue learning from home.

Superintendent Scott Robinson is recommending in advance of Wednesday’s special board meeting that the transitional learning program—which allows students to be educated from home—be extended until the end of the school year, which falls in late June for most schools.

A significant percentage of elementary students chose the virtual learning option, with 4,000 students initially enrolled (about 35 per cent). Currently, 2,200 students remain enrolled, about 19 per cent of elementary learners in the district.

Twenty teachers are responsible for instruction, in addition to school-based and district learning services staff. Funding for those teachers can be covered by reallocating the remaining return-to-school funds from the federal government.

In comparison, only about 300 secondary students are currently enrolled, compared to 400 at the beginning of the year. The program is only available to Grade 8 and 9 students. Twelve teachers are responsible for the program, and the projected $300,000 of funding can be reallocated from the same federal funds.

At the December 2020 school board meeting, trustees were unanimously in favour of extending the virtual schooling option. At that time, superintendent Scott Robinson recommended that the public health situation be reassessed prior to spring break.

“We believe that we need to be continually checking in and determining what the public health context is and whether it’s changed significantly enough that we can begin to move to full in-person learning,” said Robinson. “We’re in a situation that no one could have ever predicted, certainly that no one would have ever chosen for us to be in, and it has placed all school districts across the province in an extremely difficult situation.”

If the elementary program is not extended after spring break, Robinson’s report recommends a temporary extension until April 9 to allow schools and families time to make arrangements. The secondary program is currently slated to end April 23 if it is not extended.

Members of the public can register to watch the special board meeting live via Zoom, or access the full report in the agenda online.

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