Schools in the Kootenay Columbia district are preparing for a return to school. (Trail Times file photo)

Uncertainty abounds for Greater Trail elementary students

What that will look like in regard to the coronavirus pandemic protocols remains in question.

Despite a sunnier outlook, what a return to school for Kindergarten to Grade 5 in Trail will look like, is still a bit cloudy.

The province announced that families of K to Grade 5 children would have the option of sending the students back to school in June, but not much more is known.

“We are not going to be forcing anyone to come back, but Minister Fleming and I will be working to make sure students whose families need to have kids in class will have that opportunity,” Premier John Horgan announced May 6, referring to Rob Fleming, education minister.

What that will look like in regard to the coronavirus pandemic protocols, how may students will return, which schools are required to open, and how many staff engaged, remains in question.

“Despite the announcement last week, we have very little detail at this point about how things will roll out,” said Bill Ford, Kootenay Columbia superintendent, in an email reply to the Times.

Since April 20, the school district has been providing care to students of essential workers starting with Tier 1 emergency service workers, such as health service workers, law enforcement, first responders, and emergency response workers.

A week later the district took on Tier 2 families, or those with occupations in critical infrastructure, food and agriculture services, essential retail, transportation, industry and manufacturing, sanitation, technology, financial institutions, and other non-health essential service providers.

Care centres in the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre in East Trail and at Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar were opened and remain so.

Both facilities were chosen because of their large, open spaces.

Education assistants supported by principals and vice principals have been working with the students, while teachers have been helping students online and issuing weekly learning plans for parents to administer.

The recipe has had mixed results. Parents, however, are encouraged to communicate with their teachers when problems or concerns arise.

When elementary schools do open in early June, it will be up to the parents to decide whether their children return.

“All students who want to, from (grades) K through 5 will be invited back on a 50 per cent basis, so each district will figure out what that looks like for them. So it might mean alternate days,” Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association told CTV News.

“And Grade 6 and 7 (students) who are more middle school come back one day a week.”

The school district provides COVID-19 updates at SD20.bc.ca and Ford says he expects to have more information on the opening of Greater Trail schools next week.

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