Surrey Schools prepares to submit its ‘return to school’ plans to Education Ministry

THE Surrey School District says it is getting prepared to safely welcome all students back in September. With just three weeks until school starts, the district is now ready to start sharing key elements of its plans for September.

“Our plans are due to the Ministry of Education on August 21 for approval, and will be finalized by August 26,” said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education, on Tuesday. “We know that parents, students and staff have questions about what September will look like, so we wanted to start sharing some elements of our plan now, particularly for our secondary schools where most of our schools have over 1,400 students, and several have more than 1,500.”

The district’s management team, and in particular senior staff, school principals and vice-principals, have been working on models that align with the direction of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, as announced on July 29. Over the past week, the district has been consulting with key stakeholders on its return to school plan, including unions (CUPE and STA), and the District Parent Advisory Council.

“The health and safety of staff and students remains our top priority as we prepare to resume in-class instruction in September,” said Larsen. “We want to continue to provide quality education to our students while closely following the Provincial Health Officer’s infection control guidelines.”

The district plans outline how schools will reduce the number of in-person, close interactions students and staff will have in a day through set cohorts/learning groups and physical distancing. In the district’s draft plans, secondary schools will also implement staggered start times, break/lunch times, and dismissal times so that the numbers of students passing in hallways and in attendance in the school at any given time is limited. There will also be controlled traffic flow throughout the school, regular handwashing and cleaning/disinfection as per the provincial guidelines.

Key elements of the elementary plan will be shared next week. The final plans for both elementary and secondary will be posted on the Surrey Schools website by August 26, following further refinement and Ministry of Education approval.

“We understand that some students will not be able to return to the classroom due to underlying health conditions,” said Larsen. “We ask that parents wait for the final district plan before making any decisions as we feel that our plans will address many parent questions and concerns. This pandemic is unpredictable, but we’re committed to communicating regularly with our school community as we work together to safely support student learning.”