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.
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.