June 22, 2021
Dear Richmond Families,
As the 2020/2021 school year comes to a close, I would like to thank you for your trust, patience and understanding during what has been an unpredictable and very challenging school year for us all. As we find ourselves at the end of this year, it’s important that we take a moment to reflect back, consider our successes and also look ahead to September and a fresh start to a new school year.
I’d like to acknowledge the challenges that many families have faced due to the pandemic and I want to once again thank you for working alongside us to support your child’s learning as you navigated those challenges. We are grateful for our partnership with you. I believe that as a public education system, we have come out stronger and more resilient despite the challenges we have all faced, and it is because we have all stayed strong, connected and focused on doing what is right for our students and your children.
We know that this has been a difficult year for many of our students. Despite the best efforts of their teachers, administrators and school-based staff, many have missed out on some of the wonderful opportunities that schools provide in normal times. Field trips, graduation events, extra-curricular opportunities and many classroom-based activities that all enhance our students’ experiences were altered or not able to be offered this year. Many students were unable to attend school in-person and therefore missed out on face-to-face interactions with their friends and teachers.
Despite all this, because of the efforts of families, teachers, school administrators and other staff, students have continued to learn and stay connected to their education. As a community, we remained resilient and united with a common focus. We, including parents and families, made the necessary adjustments for our schools to remain open, and we provided support to all learners - including those who were learning in the classroom, and those who were learning from home. Many jurisdictions around the world closed their schools during the pandemic and in British Columbia we remained open and connected. It wasn’t always easy, but we worked together and we all have much to be proud of.
As we conclude this school year with a mixed sense of accomplishment and relief, it is natural to start looking ahead to the upcoming 2021/2022 school year. As you may be aware, the Ministry of Education recently issued the K-12 Education Recovery Plan which provides direction to boards of education for the 2021/2022 school year. The plan includes information on a number of areas including COVID -19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 schools. Ultimately, all students will be invited to attend school full time in-person starting in September. In many ways, we will see a ‘return to normal’ and school will look very much the way it used to before the pandemic. There will be some transitional measures in place as we move out of the pandemic and I encourage you to read about them in the document. We realize that you will likely continue to have questions and as more information becomes available in August, we will reach out to you with further details.
Within the Recovery Plan, you will find a link to the most recent BCCDC Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools: Outlook for the 2021-22 School Year document which provides preliminary public health guidance for the K-12 sector which will be confirmed in August. Here is a brief summary of some of the information currently contained in the document:
- Based on guidance from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, students will no longer be grouped into cohorts this September. Research has shown schools were not significant sources of COVID-19 transmission, and with high vaccination rates throughout B.C., these measures will no longer be necessary.
- Should the current encouraging progress continue, it is anticipated the restrictions on gatherings, extracurricular activities and sports will no longer be required when the new school year begins.
- Guidance on wearing masks in school settings will be confirmed later this summer and in alignment with broader provincial direction for the fall and winter.
- Students (and staff) will continue to be required to complete daily health checks, stay home when feeling sick and practise diligent hand hygiene.
- Public health teams and school health officers will continue to closely monitor cases of COVID-19 in schools and the community, and will continue to provide support and guidance as schools return in the fall.
I am conscious that come September, some of our students will not have attended school in-person for up to 18 months. I am also mindful of the potential impacts of the pandemic on student learning and wellbeing. I understand that some parents share these same concerns and will want to prepare their child(ren) for a successful return to school in September. As such, district staff have put together a number of ideas and activities that parents can consider from late June to September (click link). If you are having concerns surrounding your child’s mental health or well-being and are struggling with how to access support, please contact your school principal before the end of June, or contact the School Board Office at 604-668-6000 for assistance.
I want to assure you that our schools are ready and excited to receive all of our students back to in-person learning in September. I am confident that the necessary support structures are in place at each school to meet the needs of our learners, augmented by assistance from district staff. Teachers will be focused on assessing each child’s needs and planning a program that best meets their needs. This will take time and we appreciate your ongoing patience. You can expect to continue to hear directly from your child’s school as additional details about schedules, programming, etc are finalized. I encourage you to remain in touch with your child’s teachers as we begin this next step of our journey together.
I feel a great sense of joy and anticipation as I think about a full return to school, and I am hopeful that we will continue to make progress in relationship to the pandemic over the summer months. The thought of all of us back together as a community of learners, and a return to a more normal look and feel in our schools for staff, students and parents is exciting. Please enjoy a healthy, connected and fun filled summer, and I look forward to welcoming you all back in September.
Superintendent of Schools