Today, Rob Fleming, the Minister of Education, seemed to be changing the BC re-start model on everything from masks to start times. We have been told over and over by Dr. Henry that physical distancing is important in school classrooms or other large groups. It is also clear that this distancing cannot be accomplished with the current model being presented by the Ministry. However, the recommended two meters can be accomplished if we stop thinking in the old paradigm of 8:30am to 3:00pm five days a week. We should ask these questions:
Why are we leaving school buildings empty two days a week?
By not using the buildings on weekends we are missing out on a minimum of 14 hours of face to face teaching time. It could be as many as 26 hours if we had students in schools as late as 10:00pm as is the case in ‘normal’ times. This would require more custodians and busing allocation, hirings which would stimulate the economy in a time when unemployment is too high. If staff are willing to be flexible and take weekdays as their time off, then proper scheduling would not add huge demand or costs.
Why do we have students attend only until 3:00pm?
If schools were running as normal, then students would be in the buildings as late as 10:00pm for sport practice or league games or other activities. Research also tells us that teenagers are not at their best for learning in the morning hours. Perhaps, we should be using the later hours to bring senior students to the classrooms for face to face learning a few days a week. If the seniors are on a blended model combining face to face and remote learning, then this may be an ideal schedule.
Is a combination of face to face and remote learning better preparation for senior students for the post COVID-19 era?
I have recently spoken with two executives of different organizations who have made the decision that their employees will not go into their offices until 2021. Instead they will work from home and, in one case, the executive believes that this model will be the long-term model for her global enterprise. Our senior students may be better prepared for many workplaces of the future if they are required to learn remotely using technology from their own home.
This year is going to be a unique ‘pandemic’ year! We should treat it as such and not be trying to re-create so called ‘normal’ practices in our schools. We have accepted that our regular activities such as shopping, medical appointments, entertaining, professional sports, and others, must be done differently during the pandemic. We need to also accept that schooling our children will also be different. Most importantly, we need to ensure that the schooling is safe for our children, for the staff and for the families of both. Answering these questions may help create a model that is effective, future oriented and most importantly safe!
Copyright, Doug Player, August 11, 2020.