Six priorities for moving Grades K-12 forward after COVID

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Por  Stephanie Higginson
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, B.C.’s school trustees have worked hard to ensure K-12 public school students maintained access to high-quality education. The long-term effects of the pandemic on a generation of learners remains to be seen, but short-term we know students have experienced decreased mental and physical health, less academic learning, the effects of social isolation and, in some cases, increased abuse, neglect and food and housing insecurity.The important role of schools, not just as academic institutions, but also as community social service hubs, has never been clearer. Schools are where students learn critical skills and competencies to make them successful citizens, but they are also the first stop for most students and their families in accessing key services.

1. Mental health
We recognize the enormous strain the pandemic has had on students and staff in our schools. Mental health supports will be needed now more than ever. We want to ensure both students and district staff can access the programming they need to cope with the stressful effects of the pandemic and social isolation. We’re asking for increased community-based health and wellness services and supports to help reintegrate students returning to in-class learning after prolonged absence.

2. Vulnerable learners

We know that learners living in poverty, Indigenous students, English Language Learners and students with special needs are at higher risk for being negatively impacted long term by COVID-19 restrictions. We want to collaborate with the province to make changes to the learning culture that focus on student safety, Indigenous reconciliation, and reducing the negative effects of the pandemic for vulnerable students and their families.

3. Food security

All boards of education surveyed prior to creating our report identified food security as a significant concern in their communities. The pandemic has created an increased reliance on school-based food programs that were already in high demand. We anticipate many students will return to school with increased levels of food insecurity. A coordinated meal program will be essential and require immediate planning and resourcing.

4. Cleanliness

The heightened cleanliness required in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic placed an added financial burden on school districts and staff. It will be necessary, for both the health of students and staff as well as public confidence, that heightened cleaning is maintained. Districts will need stable, predictable financial resources to carry this out.

5. Connectivity

Digital inequality was brought into focus during the pandemic and remains a significant concern in many areas of the province. Ongoing work at the federal and provincial level is needed to ensure students have access to reliable internet service and learning technology. The B.C. School Trustees Association, through the Canadian School Board Association, has already undertaken advocacy efforts at the federal level to champion a speedier rollout of the federal government’s six-year connectivity infrastructure plan. Fast-tracking these efforts should remain a priority for B.C.

6. Financial resources

We acknowledge the financial pressures faced by every sector in the province, but stable funding is needed to create and maintain education services and initiatives for our students. Boards will require ongoing funding stability to thoughtfully meet anticipated intensified student needs.

Throughout the pandemic, B.C.’s provincial government and boards of education have prioritized keeping schools open, recognizing the important role they play for students, families and communities. Boards of education will continue to work with the province as co-governors of our public education system to ensure schools are meeting every learner’s needs, now and in the future.  Our challenge this year will be to mitigate learning loss and address lingering social and emotional effects of the pandemic. We are hopeful that we can leverage this opportunity to move the public education system forward as part of B.C.’s pandemic recovery plan.


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Six priorities for moving Grades K-12 forward after COVID – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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