[Op-ed] Sonia Furstenau: Plan for reopening schools leaving too many students behind

It is hard to imagine the burden on decision makers who are having to determine the steps we take in the midst of a global pandemic. The considerations they can weigh and prioritize would seem both limitless and relentlessly shifting.

As a parent, an educator, and member of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, I have some concerns about the province’s current back-to-school plan because it gives parents, students, and teachers a stark choice: Be willing to be in the classroom in person, or forfeit your connection to your school community.

Telling students who can’t or won’t go back into their classrooms in September – whether it’s due to their own health issues or the health issues of a family member – to sign up for online learning through a distributed-learning program is an insufficient response to the many different realities people are experiencing right now.

As this plan is still coming together, and as we see rising rates of COVID-19, there is still the time and opportunity to take into account the concerns of students, teachers, and parents to determine how we can better establish and maintain the strong community connection that schools deliver for everyone.

A hybrid approach that creates a widened school community moves us towards the two outcomes we should be striving for: Preventing transmission and keeping school communities intact.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable. We need to be flexible and adaptable, keeping in mind the importance of what our long-term goals are: Prevention of transmission and strengthening of community.

Times Colonist, August 18, 2020