Questions abound about back to school

What is the long-term real loss in students’ comprehension

Dear Cowichan School District trustees:

I understand the trepidation with which you are tasked to see a happy, healthy return to school Sept. 10 for our students, teachers and staff.

The scourge of COVID-19, and other looming infections, has forced a new way of opening and operating.

Here, I offer our busy board several questions about our confusing COVID world and considerations for the future.

As a Cowichan taxpayer, local reporter, and lifelong learner I have, for years, harboured true concerns about how effective learning is in our packed classrooms and during at-home learning.

My fears are now amplified in this pandemic’s wrath, and during students’ rising reliance on corporate-controlled computer and cellphone technology.

High-tech is a cheap, easy and safe fix during CV19, but what is the long-term real loss in students’ comprehension, especially among kids who learn best with face-to-face instruction?

How many portables or other buildings could safely be used by our board for live education during this crisis?

For decades parents, students, and teachers across B.C. demanded smaller class sizes of about 20 kids, not some 30.

Those requests were inadequately heard, acted upon, and funded by our misdirected, cash-strapped education ministry.

Now, amid COVID-19, schools are being forced, for health reasons, to generate what an Aug. 27, 2020 Citizen story calls ‘learning groups’ of 60 students and teachers, and ‘blended learning clans’, respective to ages of students and particular schools.

Sixty is still a far cry from 20 students, given the dangers of close contact during which masks must be mandatory.

How will viral demands of distancing, masking and handwashing impact the design of our new Cowichan Secondary School and other valley schools? Smaller class sizes and larger learning spaces will become normal, no doubt.

Nasty bugs — including viruses, bacteria, bedbugs, lice and cockroaches entering our schools — were around long before CV19. Our schools did a great job dealing with them given their resources.

Education about social dangers and pandemic remedies must become part of our curriculum, among many other common sense tools for anxious students concerned about the environment, health, careers and much more.

Sadly, our Cowichan school board sold or repurposed many unused school facilities as enrolment numbers dropped during the past two decades or so — schools that could now be used for distancing programs and more. That sure was not long-term planning.

Yes, COVID-19 was unknown but we had seasonal ‘flu-season’ hints that health dangers could spike.

Given provincial policies of not failing nor examining students’ knowledge, but simply shuffling kids to the next grade, who will test our students to see if they have indeed adequately learned their lessons during this global health crisis that has hobbled learning?

I’m sure our trustees share some of my worries. I look forward to, and expect, more constructively creative solutions from our busy board, staff, parents, students and taxpayers.

Peter W. Rusland



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