Classrooms are no longer empty, and students in the Comox Valley are apparently happy to be back. (Pixabay photo)

Classrooms are no longer empty, and students in the Comox Valley are apparently happy to be back. (Pixabay photo)

Schools finding fewer problems like truancy this fall

Board members are happy to see students taking leadership roles

Many students, it seems, have been happy to be back in class this fall.

One of the informal findings in School District 71 so far has been that more have been showing up to class, following a spring in which the coronavirus forced students and teachers to work online.

At a board meeting on Oct. 27, the trustees heard about some of the student behaviour trends this fall.

The district has been ahead of the curve when it comes to numbers returning to classrooms this fall, despite a big increase in the number of students attending distance learning through programs like Navigate NIDES.

At Mark R. Isfeld Secondary, for example, which was the site of the board meeting, the return rate has been 95 per cent. Principal Sean Lamoureaux said the students, even while working in cohorts, have been happy to see their friends again and to have face-to-face time with teachers.

“Students have been excellent, they’ve been compliant,” he told the trustees.

As one example, he pointed to a drop-off in problems around vaping, with no suspensions this year as of the day of the meeting.

“The reason is there’s not a ton of free time,” he added.

Valley View Elementary principal Katy Doran, who also spoke at the meeting, reiterated Lamoureaux’s point about students’ sentiments around being back in class.

Superintendent Tom Demeo also backed up this point.

“Attendance is way up. We’re not seeing the truancy we’ve had in past years,” he told the board.

From speaking with principals at secondary schools, he had found referrals to the office are down and behaviour of the students has been positive.

Demeo also noted the important role of students in helping with events this fall, though ones like Remembrance Day commemorations or the Terry Fox Run have had to happen in different ways, such as in smaller groups or online.

“All of these events are student-led or students have played such a major role,” he said.

For the district, the superintendent said there are long-term lessons, pointing to examples such as the role that place-based or outdoor learning can play in the education system.

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From the board’s point of view, this came as good news. Chair Sheila McDonnell responded by saying, “We might’ve underestimated the degree to which students have stepped up and risen to the occasion, to take responsibility for their learning.”

Whether other school districts are finding the same response from students this fall is not clear. A representative from the B.C. School Superintendents Association told the Record these answers would have to come from districts directly, but they were satisfied to hear students are happy to be back at school.

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