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FAQ
FAQ

We appreciate that you have many questions about the guidelines, precautions and procedures in place now that students have returned to school.

Please see Fraser Health's list of Freqently Asked Questions. The questions & answers are also available in Punjabi, Hindi, Chinese, Korean and FarsiThe Ministry of Education has also created this information page that will help address your questions regarding topics such as learning groups, health & safety measures, the expectations of the five-stages framework for K-12 education, and more.


We asked parents to submit their questions to Supt. Jordan Tinney for a parent information session held on Oct. 6 (view the video of session). Here is a transcript of the questions and answers addressed during the session:

Health & Safety

Why was the daily health check updated and the runny nose symptom removed?
This daily health checklist was updated by medical experts as they gathered more data on the disease and the symptoms that generally present in school-aged children.
To ensure we limit the exposure & spread of illness, the district requires parents/guardians to conduct health checks every day prior to sending their children to school. The Daily Health Check form allows for a personal review of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms should stay home and follow instructions on the checklist.

Why are masks not mandatory in classrooms?
Our provincial health officer provides COVID-19 health and safety directives for every school district in our province, and our PHO has not deemed masks mandatory in our classrooms when students are with their cohorts.
Under our provincial guidelines, masks are required for all staff and students in secondary school when they are in high-traffic areas such as on buses and in hallways. Staff and students can choose to voluntarily wear masks in other settings.

How will the District address non-mask compliance in common areas?
Under our provincial guidelines, masks are required for all staff and students in secondary school when they are in high-traffic areas such as on buses and in hallways. When individuals in these areas are not wearing masks, we talk to individuals about the importance of wearing masks and respecting the regulations. It will take time to change behaviors, but we also need to be mindful that not all people can wear masks for medical or other conditions.

Does public health inspect schools with multiple exposures?
A notice of exposure is a notice that someone who has tested positive with COVID-19 has been in that school. When there is an exposure, public health works with that school directly and better understands where the case was and who they interacted with. This does not mean health inspectors come to schools.

Why are some teachers not wearing masks or face shields and not others?
Teachers and students do not have to wear masks or face shields when they are in their cohorts/learning groups or when they are able to physically distance. In general, masks are required in common areas such as hallways, photocopy rooms and lunch rooms.
 
Do teachers have the authority to send a child with symptoms home? If not, can they require this symptomatic child wear a mask in class?
If a student shows any COVID-19 symptoms at school, there are safety protocols in place to protect students and staff:
The child waits in an isolated room.
The child wears a non-medical face mask while waiting. (Staff members should also wear a mask if physical distancing cannot be maintained.)
The school contacts parents/guardians to take the child home.
The classroom would be cleaned and disinfected.

If my child has mild symptoms that are on the checklist every few days, he will never attend school. What should we be doing if our child has allergies or other conditions in winter months that may look like COVID but we are positive it is not.
The daily health check form has been updated to reflect COVID-19 symptoms that generally present in school-aged children. Allergies do not apply to symptoms on the daily health check form. If you are concerned that your child's symptoms are more than allergies, you should contact your school and HealthLink BC at 811.

I see a lot of students gathering in front of the school's entrance door in the morning – not distancing, and some not wearing masks. Is there something the school can do to guide students to practice distancing? 
Our schools have safety plans that detail appropriate methods to enter and exit the school, including only using the doors closest to your classroom and physically distancing yourself from others as you enter the building. We recognize that students want to socialize and see their peers and that these are new behaviours. We will continue to work with our students to learn these new behaviours and understand the importance of following these new protocols.
 
With the Clorox 360 system, are parents being given an information handout on what chemicals are being used? Is this solution safe?
Yes, parents are given information on what chemicals are used and yes, the solution is safe. These disinfectants are approved by the BC Centre for Disease. These foggers are effective and more efficient for cleaning classrooms and disinfecting spaces. We invested heavily in them and We are really pleased with how they're operating.
 
 
Exposures

When there is an exposure in a school, does the school change their practice at all?
Our district's response to this pandemic is consistent with the guidelines and direction provided by public health experts. We rely on the expertise of our local Medical Health Officer and the Provincial Heath Officer to guide our health and safety plans and ensure our sites are safe for staff and students. Our response is also dependent upon numerous layers of protections, including the shared responsibility of our entire school community to follow critical infection control practices, including diligent hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing masks when physical distancing is not possible.
 
Why aren't schools closed for disinfecting after an exposure?
It is not necessary to close schools as we know a lot more now about COVID transmission and the way the virus works. We have established learning groups and have strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols that are implemented on a daily basis, not just following exposures.
 
When a child is self-isolating or staying home because of symptoms, how will you ensure they don't fall behind in class work?
Similar to when a child missed school due to illness in the past we make sure that we provide work so that students don't fall behind in class. We will continue to make sure we put in structures so all students are supported.
 
Upon confirmation of a COVID 19 exposure, how quickly are parents notified? And whose responsibility is it to tell us – Fraser Health or district?
Both Fraser Health and the school informs parents. When we get contact from Fraser health telling us about an exposure, we notify the school community within 24 hours, but typically it's been within six hours.
 
How can you guarantee that a child that tested positive is staying home?
People who are self isolating are monitored by public health and they remain in contact with the individual. They ask them about their whereabouts and what they have been doing. There are no guarantees but we believe fully that people who tested positive are indeed staying home.
 
Why are siblings of confirmed COVID cases in school? Shouldn't they be isolating?
Information from Fraser Health is that when there is a confirmed COVID case, the members of that household are asked to self isolate. If an individual is not a confirmed case but has been asked to self isolate, public health may not ask household members to self-isolate, but they will work with that household to ensure no one else is exposed within that home.
 
Why does our district have more exposures than other districts? Are we doing something wrong?
Fraser Health has assured us that while there are cases in our district, they are in keeping with community transmission rates in our communities. We are the largest school district in the province, with the most schools and students. It stands to reason that we would have more exposures than other districts.
 
How/why are students or staff in school for multiple days while they are infectious? Is there anything we can do to stop this?
Our hope is that when individuals experience symptoms, they stay home. It is important to remember that some symptoms are mild, particularly in children, and it might be very hard to discern that these are symptoms of COVID-19.
 
After multiple exposures at school, why can't my child just do his assignments from home and wait until the 14 days after exposure are done?
This is a choice for parents. Parents can phone in sick and have their child do their work from home, however we want parents to remember that a notice of exposure does not mean your child has been exposed to COVID-19. If you don't get a call or an additional letter for your student, you're at no change in risk.
 
I wish you shared more details on exposures so parents can make informed decisions on whether to keep our kids home. Who was infectious (student or staff), which class were they in, etc.
It is very important to protect an individuals privacy and personal health information. Privacy is key and we'll continue to do what we do. In many cases Fraser Health does not disclose who tested positive for COVID. Their focus is on the exposure and how best to keep the school community safe.

Recess and lunch breaks

Are there any guidelines for letting kids play in the rain or snow? I understand that its better to be outside but I'm concerned about kids catching a cold.
We are always concerned about students catching a cold. Students will be permitted to play in the rain and snow, and parents are asked to take measures such as adequate raingear or a change of clothes to ensure their child's health and safety at school.
 
If kids are playing outside in rain/mud, then they need to change their clothes, which means 30 (or more) kids are all going to the change room to change. How is that safe?
Students would not all be going into a change room at once. Changing times can be staggered and students can change in other bathrooms to keep students physically distanced and safe.
 
Is there a limit/recommendation for how many children can play on a play structure at one time? I'ts difficult to distance if there are 3 classes in one area.
Yes, schools stagger playtimes and establish different areas for different groups when kids are on a playground. Play structures vary from school to school, and some play structures may be large enough to hold more than one cohort of students. It can be difficult to physically distance, but it is far safer playing outside in a highly ventilated area.
 
How are you reinforcing safety cohorts while kids are out on the playground? We have heard from students that there is no identification of designated cohorts when students are outdoors.
It is very difficult, and many of our elementary schools have more than 600 students. There are times when our playground supervisors can't easily identify which learning group the kids are in. As always, we want to minimize physical contact and we will keep reminding students of the importance of remaining in their cohorts. This will be a big part of our ongoing work.
 
If cohorts are to stay together then why are they permitted to hang out with other cohorts during lunch? Or use the same playground at the same time? Doesn't this make contact tracing difficult?
It might make contract tracing difficult. We remind students on a daily basis to remain physically distant to the greatest extent possible, and to minimize physical contact. But students are going to go out and spend time with other groups of students at lunchtime or after school. We know this, but we hope students are maintaining physically distant. This is part of our ongoing communication with students and their parents – we are all in this together. But we also don't want students to feel that they can't play. These measures are critical in finding that balance.
 
Are the playground equipment sanitized daily?
No, it is not. We don't sanitize playground equipment as it wouldn't be practical for us to do. We do remind students to wash their hands before and after play.
 
Why are there no staggered break times or start/end times at large elementary schools?
Some schools have staggered start times, and we are looking at how we might do it elsewhere, but there are other considerations we need to be mindful of, including health and safety guidelines, current school schedules and the collective agreement. Staggering can be pretty difficult, especially in schools that might have many cohorts. It's certainly on our radar and it varies from school to school.

Classrooms

Are there any plans to reduce class sizes? What is the reason class sizes were kept the same as before COVID-19?
There are not any further plans to reduce caps of class size. Class sizes were kept the same, and  staffing was rearranged to accommodate students who opted for the blended learning program to ensure efficiency of in-class and online learning rather than forcing teachers to conduct both in-class and remote instruction.
 
Dr. Henry has said publicly that students should be seated in rows, all facing the same direction.  Why are you seating students in groups, facing each other?
We don't have individual desks in every single classroom. We've moved to much better structures using tables and different organizations. When students are in their learning groups, they are within a much safer group that is easier for contact tracing. They are permitted to be closer together. We hope teachers are able to structure their classrooms so students are not directly face to face and there is distance between them. We still manage to provide quality instruction in a safe place.
 
Why aren't teachers talking about COVID exposures in class? This does not support student mental health. The entire school should talk about what happened. You should not hide it.
We are not hiding anything about exposures. The district puts out letters to staff and school communities regarding exposures, as well as on social media. Some teachers may be talking about COVID exposures in class while others may not. If you believe your teacher should be talking about exposures, please talk to your school principal and your teacher. They may have decided it's not age-appropriate or the teacher doesn't know the best way is to address it, particularly if they don't want to create any more stress for them. That is the domain of the teacher and parents should talk to them if they have concerns about COVID discussions in class.
 
During P.E. at my child's high school they are playing games where they are holding hands. I know that is their cohort but my child is not comfortable getting that close to other kids? I think they could play games where they should not touch each other.
Please talk to your school. Students should not be playing games where they are holding hands in P.E. at this time.
 
Why are children allowed to sing together during music class, in a closed space, with no masks and no distance?
In the health guidelines, singing is permitted in your learning cohort while staying at least one metre apart. If students are outside of their cohort, they must maintain a two-metre distance.
 
Why are large secondary schools having fire drills & evacuation?  The hallways packed with kids leaving and all the kids on the field together? They are grades 10, 11, 12 – they know what to do. Are there no other options for drills (virtual, staggered, etc.)?
The drills are required by the fire department and by public health. These drills are unavoidable to prepare in case of an emergency situation. We hope the students would move quickly in their current cohorts toward different marshaling areas on the field. Our drills for emergencies are still important for us to do, and they just wouldn't be the same virtually.

Restart Plan / Blended Program

Will blended continue in January?
Probably. This is a transition program and we want students to come back to face-to-face learning, but we recognize not all students may be ready to come back. We are going to re-evaluate in November to give parents time to figure things out.
 
Why can't I join blended? I made the decision for face-to-face when I thought there were no cases in schools.
The blended classes are full. With the rearrangement of staff, classes were organized to the best of our ability within our collective agreement and there is simply no more space.
 
We appreciate having blended program for 10-12, but if a student is struggling, will you reach out and provide additional supports (like more face-to-face) for those students?
We hope so. If your student needs more support, please reach out to your classroom teacher or your school about how you to receive more support.
 
Do you foresee any changes in January? A heads up would be appreciated if we start preparing now for distance education mentored by parents and grandparents?
We do not foresee any changes in January that will be much different than how things are being managed currently. We expect there may be small or isolated cases where students and classes are asked to self-isolate, with more notification letters. We do not anticipate school closures.
 
Why can't the quarters alternate? So A block in person, B block online with 1 day/week in person. Then next week is reverse. The kids are exposed to both cohorts already so this gives both classes an online option.
The students are not exposed to both cohorts. The Block B class is divided into one third, so they can maintain sufficient distance and have a very limited exposure to their peers in that group. If you brought the entire Block B back online, that would in effect double the exposure because we would be bringing all of our Block B kids face to face and that would mix cohorts across the school.
 
Would there ever be an online option for schools where you stay connected to your school and not have to sign up with Sail?
Yes, that's what we are doing in many cases where we want kids to remain connected to their school and not signed up for SAIL.
 
I would like to register my autistic son for blended. If we select this option, will he have access to his EA and the supports he has in-class?
This is managed on an individual basis. EAs won't be providing the same face to face support in an online model. Please talk with your principal and our Student Support team to determine what that would look like for your son.
 
Could you speak to why the grade 9's that are participating in the Surrey Blended Secondary Transition Model only have ONE class for 10 weeks vs the full time grade 9's and the grade 10,11 and 12 model having TWO classes?
Courses in the Grade 8-9 blended model are unique to each student's situation. Students with one class for 10 weeks may not have been able to attend a second class due to timetable constraints.
 
What is the purpose of having face to face school time in the blended program?  We chose this program because we want to reduce the exposure to COVID-19. Would kids loose on their learning if they don't attend afternoon classes in Surrey blended program?
The purpose of face-to-face school time in the blended program is to begin the transition back to school. We want students to feel comfortable about being in school so they can transition back in January. If you're unable to attend the afternoon classes, that is alright. Please talk to your teacher or your school.
 
How are you ensuring that the children in the blended program are learning the same concepts as the children in face-to-face program and will not be missing big gaps in concepts this year?
Our teachers are provided collaboration time, which involves making sure that these students have every opportunity to remain on pace with their peers. Our ideas and core competencies can be taught in the blended program in the same manner that they have in the face-to-face program. Our goal is to ensure students can transition seamlessly back into their classroom.
 
My child is a junior (gr 9) in Highschool. Can she take distance math & English through SAIL or does it have to be through her 'usual' school? (the rest of her courses would be taken on site at her usual school).  We prefer SAIL since it is established as a distance educator and then she would have the year to complete the courses.
Yes, while the SAIL program is very busy, distance Math and English can be taken through SAIL.
 
Why are students are taught electives (foods, gym, PE, etc.) in the school in-person and academics (math, science, history, English, French, etc.) online?
The electives like food and P.E. need access to specialized equipment, so being in-person is necessary for those electives. The academic courses are often better adapted to being online.
 
With the blended program how is gradual return considered an option if you have multiple children at different schools?
In every case, if you have multiple children at different schools, you would still do a gradual return in each individual school.
 
When will students in the transitions 8/9 program hear about continuing with the program for quarter 2 and when will they get their schedules updated on MyEdBC to reflect this health necessity or desire to continue on this path?
This is a transition program, and our intent is to get the Grade 8-9 students comfortable to transition in quarter two to their regular course schedule.
 
Parents are being told and/or are hinting that kids will have to transition back to in class in quarter 2. When questioned, it is said this is because the district did not yet give them funding past quarter 1 and therefore, can't make plans to continue the program. This is causing undue stress to students and families. This needs to be clarified between district, parents and schools ASAP.
We only funded quarter one so far in secondary, but we are ready to fund quarter two. We will need to first determine the demand for quarter two.
 
Can the students who are doing the French Immersion blended option not be marked as absent? A lot of us have multiple children in the blended program with teachers out of different schools. It's impossible for us parents to drop off and pick up our kids at various schools throughout Surrey at the same time.
If you have issues with scheduling drop-offs for you children, please talk to your school and they can assist.
 
Can the grade 8 and 9 students have an option of blended learning like the grade 10,11,12?
In following the Ministry mandate, the Grade 10, 11 and 12 blended model was the only way to get the range of courses for those students. We did consider a Grade 8 and 9 blended model but we elected to have Grade 8 and 9 students in class full time, in line with the mandate.
 
Grade 2 and Grade 3 are being kept in the same class and will repeat the same learning when they move ahead in the next year. What is the relevance of this structure?
Grade 2 and 3 students will not be kept in the identical learning group in the next school year.
 
My kids are trying to do the online blended option. It is a horrific, complicated mess they have created. Is there any funding going toward making these online options functional so kids can be successful?
We are sorry if the experiences haven't been positive for you. Our Education Services team is doing ongoing work on curriculum and delivery. If you have a particular issue with your class, please talk to your school and they can look for improvements.
 
With the online model, there is a lot of printing for parents. Other districts such as Vancouver have asked their teacher to prepare weekly packages for parents to take home to their children, will Surrey implement such a policy to reduce printing costs and stress for parents?
Every teacher is going to do things differently. We don't want a ton of printing for parents. Please talk to your teacher and see what can be done.
 
My children are doing the blended learning, and I'm concerned that when they get back into the classroom in January, they will have fallen behind their peers in class full time.  Is there anything we can do as parents to ensure our kids don't fall behind?
Absolutely, please ask your teacher and your school how to ensure your child doesn't fall behind in class.
 
We have concerns about Senior students (gr 11 & 12) and the quarter system; with a simple head cold potentially keeping them from attending their morning class for one or more days, there is great concern about falling behind in work and/or missing key concepts (like in Calculus 12, for example).  With the quarter system teachers are having to cram a lot of material into a shorter period of time.
It's actually the same amount of instructional time, just in a shorter span of 10 weeks. We recognize that it is a lot of content to get through in a shorter amount of time, and we encourage students to take steps to remain healthy to avoid missing class.
 
I have a son in Grade 11 now and he gets sick easily when it's very cold outside, like winter, because of his mild asthma. Can I put him online learning for the rest of the winter?
Contact SAIL and inquire about the wait list for online learning. You may also contact your school to see what they can do to accommodate.
 
Why the online learning for French class is way shorter than other schools? Normally they have online class 8:30-11:30, some of them have another hour in the afternoon, but French class only have 1 hour for whole day?
Course length may vary from school to school. Please ask your school about shorter classes.
 
 
Supports for students

Is the district going to start a tech loan program?  I have one lap top & three children doing either online or blended. Is the district supporting internet access for families doing blended?
One of the things that we said at the start of this school year is that if parents are going to opt for the Blended program you need to have access to technology, a wireless network and internet connection. This is not the same as March when we were forcing all parents to be home. We have loaned technology and we may continue to do so but it will be in smaller numbers. We also have to make sure kids have access to technology at our schools so we'll see what we can do.
 
How soon can a parent meet with an integration teacher to build an IEP for a child with ASD?
Contact your school and our student support services.
 
Can the school provide speech therapy for my child?
Contact your school for information.
 
How can I be part of the volunteer team?
We are not going to be seeing volunteering in school this year like we have in past years as we don't want to limit the number of individuals from outside of our cohorts in to schools. We recognize that it is a loss for our school community and for your ability to contribute to our schools.
 
What supports are available for student mental health?
No matter what program you are in, you still have access to schools and counselors. Please make sure that if you have specific needs around student mental health you reach out to the school and ask what supports that they can provide.  
 
Are there any after-school options available?  Most after-schools are currently closed at the moment because of COVID-19… would the school be able to implement an after-school plan in the near future?
This is another big loss, but the current regulations really have clamped down on mixing across cohorts. So we've lost many things during COVID and we would hope one day that our after school programs could return but it's not going to be anytime soon.

Portables

Why are there no sinks in portables? COVID is not going away so we need a long term solution to this problem.
Running temporary plumbing to 364 portables in the district would be an enormous undertaking and many of those portables get moved all the time. Considering the number of portables that we have, it would take years to enable that to be in place. So we need options like hand sanitizers in classrooms, access to washrooms, and access to wash carts as needed. Sinks in portables is not on the horizon for us as a solution.
 
I'm really concerned about the portable classroom, too many students in the small area, no social distancing, and not enough protective facilities eg. Between desk to desk should have plexiglass, put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people!
When in your learning group, the two meters doesn't apply. The recommendation in cohorts is to physically distance to the greatest extent possible. Some people view portables as a plus because you're actually in your own little isolation, but others consider the loss of things like sinks and access to other parts of the school and find it a hindrance. Portables are a concern for many, but we are not going to have plexiglass between desks anytime soon or in the future.

Other

How will COVID precautions affect field trips?
You are going to see a dramatic reduction in field trips this year. Our Board of Education just recently issued a moratorium on international travel and other province travel for the entire school year. So field trips are going to take a big hit during this pandemic.
 
When will the children be allowed to do some extra curricular activities? Will there be any options where parents who are willing to take some risk be allowed to enter there children in sports.
This is an area where there's been big challenges for parents and also discrepancies between what is permitted in the community for sports versus what is permitted in schools. We are advocating strongly for consistency on those protocols but with current health and safety protocols (cohorts and minimizing your contacts), this will remain a real challenge.
 
Why are after school clubs such as choir starting when that brings other cohorts together? I am confused as to what is right and wrong.
In the health guidelines, singing is permitted in your learning cohort while staying at least one metre apart, and if outside your cohort with two-metre physical distancing. If you are confused about what is right or wrong, please read the guidelines as it explains it really well. Choir is not necessarily just a club, we have lots of choirs that are classes.
 
How much money did SD 36 get from the $242 million grant, and what was it spent on? Class sizes haven't gone down.
Our share of the $242 million federal grant was $26.4 million. The first installment of $13.2 million was used to hire 138 custodians, in addition to extensive amount of cleaning supplies (that was over 12 and a half million dollars, just on cleaning supplies and custodians).
In order to make the Blended program work and to deal with the way in which classes and cohorts were formed, we hired 28 teachers above and beyond the contingency of 12 teachers that we had in the districts, so we put 40 additional teachers into the system. So that money is going to health and safety, teachers, and other health and safety measures like ventilation. This is a one time grant so we have to make sure that we spend it judiciously now and why we haven't yet released the staffing for quarter two.