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Richmond parent: 'so much pent up frustration and anxiety'

Richmond parent Gillian Burnett is expecting a “revolution” from families in September if instruction doesn’t improve in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Richmond school district
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Richmond parent Gillian Burnett is expecting a “revolution” from families in September if instruction doesn’t improve in the COVID-19 pandemic.

While most families have been understanding of the unprecedented challenges faced by teachers and school administrators during the past three months, the patience of some parents is wearing thin, she said, and she hopes the school administration will take the lead to implement necessary tools and training to deliver instruction to students.

“There’s so much pent-up frustration and anxiety among the parents I know,” Burnett said, adding she expects an “exodus” of those families who can afford it to private schools, something she thinks would weaken the public school system.

Burnett thinks there’s ample time over the summer to deliver these tools to teachers — the right “platform” to deliver instruction, for example, cameras for projecting lessons to kids at home and screens to project those children learning from home to engage students more than a couple days a week.

According to the Richmond school district superintendent, Scott Robinson, the school district is developing different scenarios for delivering instruction based on the information they currently have.

“Once the government lets us know — hopefully prior to Labour Day long weekend — we will act as quickly as we can to once again prepare our system to do our best for our kids and our families,” Robinson said.

The  Richmond News has learned one plan the school district is looking at is to have some students in class on Monday and Tuesday, a deep cleaning of schools on Wednesdays — $1.5 million extra was approved in the 2020/2021 budget for COVID-19-related cleaning — and another set of students on Thursday and Friday.

David Sadler, school district spokesperson,  said, however, it’s not clear yet what stage schools will be in when they re-open.

He added school districts are anticipating that information by mid-August, while BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring informed its members that the Ministry of Education has promised to let them know by Aug. 20.

“We understand that parents would like to know these details as soon as possible,” Sadler said, adding “As soon as we have that information we will communicate directly with parents in the district.”

Burnett said a whole cohort of students is already suffering because of the past three months, and having kids just instructed 40 per cent of the time in the fall — or however long the pandemic continues — is unsustainable.

“Do we really want to plan to deprive children of more than half their education?” Burnett said.

The rest would be up to students themselves and their families to direct learning, something Burnett feels is unacceptable.

Kids are used to being directed by their classroom teachers and they are not going to suddenly have the skill set to direct themselves in their learning, she added.

Burnett said families have been “holding our breath” waiting for the possibility of summer daycamps and resuming normalcy in the fall at school.

“It’s looking less and less like that’s going to be the case,” Burnett said. “In order to cope with that, we need the security of knowing that we’re not going to have to be educating our kids full-time (in the fall).”

Burnett said she’s seen a full spectrum of teaching — with some teachers stepping up to the challenge and others not, with everything in between.

Burnett said she appreciates it’s complicated to figure out how to teach in this environment, but added “this is worth figuring out and doing it correctly.”

Many teachers have a lot of creative ideas and these need to be integrated into this new teaching model, adding now is the time to think outside the box. 

“There are lots of teachers who are excited about these possibilities and I just would like to see those people lifted up and celebrated and enabled to do the things they want to do,” Burnett said.

But support, whether it’s equipment or training, is needed “in order to not compromise our kids’ education for the next year or two,” she added.

“It needs to be designed by people who know what the technology is capable of, and clearly structured and set out in detail so teachers know exactly what is expected of them and are given the tools to deliver on it,” she said.

Sadler said the school district has been able to “test-drive” health and safety protocols in June, which remains their priority, but these may be adjusted depending on direction from the provincial health officer.