By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Valemount Elementary and McBride Centennial School will restart meal programs and begin providing on-site instruction to children of local front line workers this week.
The in-class care is not quite school instruction, nor is it daycare, said Cindy Heitman, deputy superintendent for School District No 57.
Students will work on learning plans provided by their homeroom teachers, while being supervised by on-site teachers, she said. All locations will adhere to Provincial Health Officer orders to maintain social distancing and implement upgraded sanitization protocols.
Distance learning for all B.C. students was mandated by the Ministry of Education and Provincial Health Officer to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But in-school instruction for the children of essential workers was ordered to help keep front line workers on the job.
According to the SD 57 website, on-site instruction will be offered to children of workers providing essential services, defined by the province’s Emergency Management guidelines as people critical to ‘preserving life, health,public safety and basic societal functioning.’ The service was originally geared to children between five and 12 years-old whose parents work in emergency response, front-line health care, critical infrastructure, and the supply chain. But that definition was narrowed to just the children of frontline health care, social work and law enforcement, said Heitman.
According to a staff member at a school in the Prince George district, many of the people staffing the in-school care volunteered to do extra shifts.
“They’re getting paid, but the district didn’t have to direct people to do it, we wanted to help out,” said a school administrator who asked that his name not be used.
Only teachers and staff who do not have a class will be working with the in-school care programs.
Teachers and administrators have been planning how to deliver learning programs for a couple weeks already and all students should have heard from their teachers.
Parents and students can get more information about learning at home from the Ministry of Education and its online partner Open School, at the website openschool.bc.ca/keeplearning
Meal programs continue
Both elementary schools in Valemount and McBride previously provided nutrition programs to some students and have worked out different ways to continue the service in ways that work best for each family, said Heitman.
For some it could be take-out style, for others it may involve delivery of several meals at once.
“It’s very individualized,” Heitman said.
In some district schools, culinary arts teachers are preparing meals in school kitchens, while other people are dropping meals off to kids so they don’t have to leave home to get fed.
“People are working their butts off to try to help families,” said one staff person, who estimated 450 students get fed through meal programs across the district. “I like coming to work right now. It’s sad (circumstances), but at the same time, what people are doing is pretty impressive.”