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Dan Davies: B.C.’s COVID-19 education plan

To overly use the term, we are in “unprecedented times” is an understatement – but it does call for unprecedented leadership. Today more than ever, strong leadership from government is exactly what our students and parents need most.
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Students at North Peace Secondary wait to be called to collect their personal belongings outside of the school’s gym entrance, April 3, 2020. Groups of students had a designated time to come collect their belongings last week.

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To overly use the term, we are in “unprecedented times” is an understatement – but it does call for unprecedented leadership. Today more than ever, strong leadership from government is exactly what our students and parents need most.

As Education Critic, I have been in contact with many school districts, teachers, support staff and union executives from around the province. The common theme from everyone is that there is a lot of uncertainty across the education system as government continues its efforts to battle this global pandemic. School districts want more direction and support on how to effectively deliver learning in this new normal.

Teachers are also reaching out to me saying some districts are allowing certain things that other districts are not, or why are we doing this and no one else is. And with many parents working from home, trying to manage their child’s education from the kitchen table, it’s no surprise that there is anxiety amongst everyone who is working hard to find solutions. There is no doubt our education administrators and teachers are working very hard to do everything they can for our kids’ well-being. But simply put, more direction is needed from the province.

Some detailed examples from around the province I am hearing include things like: a lack of or inconsistency of continuity of learning plans; inconsistent approaches to Grade 12 expectations and graduating requirements; Principals are seeking clarity but not getting it, leading to entire schools struggling to adapt.

Parents with kids in the public system are questioning why private and independent schools appear to be delivering higher-quality and more efficient learning for their students. Parents from across the province are telling me there’s confusion on how childcare is being provided in some schools. Some school districts are expecting staff in school, while other districts are allowing a work from home option. This has created situations like Educational Assistants sharing their experiences of sitting in classrooms with teachers without any work to complete.

The bottom line is everyone from teachers to administrators to parents are all seeking direction and need leadership at this time. We all want what is best for our kids and that requires clear educational guidelines, that reflect the current realities, to be developed by the Ministry of Education and adopted by school districts as quickly as possible.

With this tremendous challenge comes an opportunity for the Ministry of Education to provide the much-needed leadership that can drive innovation across the sector and ensure our students in every corner of the province are getting the best possible education they deserve to grow and prosper.

Dan Davies is MLA for Peace River North and Education Critic.