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With September behind us, and schools safely supporting student learning by following health and safety protocols that reflect the measures put forth by provincial health experts, the Surrey School District has begun solidifying its enrolment numbers for this unique school year.
"Our overall enrolment numbers are slightly above last year, but they are below our projections for the 2020/21 school year," explains Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "This is due to a number of factors, including a decline in immigration and international students, and the fact that some parents opted to home school their children."
The district saw most students return to full-time in-class instruction with set cohorts and physical distancing, with the exception of all Grade 10, 11 and 12 students who are participating in a blended model with both online and face-to-face learning. Students in Grades 8 and 9 were able to register for limited online options dedicated to core academic courses. Parents of kindergarten to Grade 7 students who were not comfortable sending their child to full-time face-to-face instruction also had the option to participate in a blended program with a goal of gradually increasing face-to-face instruction.
"There is no question that this pandemic has brought challenges to the public school system, but it has also brought opportunity," says Larsen. "We heard directly from families in our district that another option for learning was needed, and so our district began developing a blended model."
"This is new territory for our district," explains Dr. Jordan Tinney, Superintendent of the Surrey School District. "In an average school year, the vast majority of our students physically attend classes, and our staff is able to offer in-person support. This year, we have a program where about 29,000 students in our district are receiving at least half of their education online.
"We have built a schedule for this program with specific times where both staff and parents have a chance to reach out for support," adds Tinney. "On Mondays, our teachers who support the blended program have opportunities to work with their colleagues across the district to share best practices and develop resources and materials to build a quality blended program. We had over 400 staff participate in last Monday's virtual meeting."
On Fridays, the district has set time for parents to connect with teachers to learn tips, practical advice and methods to help enable them to support their children at home.
"Developing a brand new program in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat," explains Larsen. "Kudos go to our staff that not only developed this program, but are working tirelessly to ensure its success, and ultimately the success of all of our students."
* Full-time face-to-face instruction in secondary schools is only available to Grade 8 and 9 students in 2020. All Grade 10, 11, 12 students are participating in a blended program.