After holding recent meetings socially distanced but in person at Isfeld Secondary, the board of education was back meeting via Zoom because of recent pandemic restrictions. Image, screenshot

After holding recent meetings socially distanced but in person at Isfeld Secondary, the board of education was back meeting via Zoom because of recent pandemic restrictions. Image, screenshot

Most parents approve of schools’ handling of pandemic, says Comox Valley superintendent

Schools forced to adapt to COVID-19, including finding alternative to regular theatre production

This school year has forced everyone to adapt to a different way of delivering education.

So far, the school district says, most parents seem to be supporting the efforts made to provide education in way that takes into account health and safety protocols.

RELATED STORY: Schools in Comox Valley find ways to adjust to classroom learning

At the most recent school board meeting on Nov. 24, superintendent Tom Demeo gave an update on some of the most recent changes this year in response to the coronavirus.

Parents, he said, have for the most part supported how schools have handled the situation this fall. A November survey found that about 70 per cent were in favour of how schools have responded to the pandemic, which was up from a previous figure of 58 per cent in September. The poll was conducted throughout the province by Insights West.

As well, the number who prefer a mix of online and in-person classes as the preferred method of delivering education has decreased, with the figure dropping from 41 per cent down to 32 per cent. Meanwhile, the preference for in-person learning has increased over the two months from 27 per cent to 45 per cent.

While many students have signed on for distance learning this year, more are now interested in coming back into the classrooms.

“We’re seeing that shift…. Many of those students are coming back to their home schools,” he said.

The pandemic measures have brought about widespread changes in the school system. For example, Demeo referred to how the district musical has had to be handled this year. Past productions have included Xanadu, School of Rock and Heathers. Usually, all three secondary schools combine on a musical production for the year, though this year’s COVID-19 restrictions have made that impossible.

“As you can imagine, COVID has really thrown a spanner in the works,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley school district drama students present Xanadu

However, the schools have responded to the challenge. Lead teacher Jen Riley and director Lori Mazey have come up with some online and travelling workshops for students, so the students do not have to go outside their cohorts.

“The creativity of our folks never ceases to amaze me,” Demeo said.

The hope is there will be some way the schools can share their work with the community, perhaps by late spring at an outdoor venue, depending on public health measures at that time.

“They’ve created something that is really quite special,” he added.

So far, this year, the district has made a number of alterations, including enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing and having students work in set cohorts. Other changes have affected school activities such as Remembrance Day events and Terry Fox Runs.

The school district has also announced it is taking part in a project called MyHEARTSMAP, a joint effort by the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and UBC. The two partners put out a call for participants to examine how the pandemic has changed people’s lives, particularly around matters affecting the social and psychological well-being of children and youth.

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