Students in a Surrey classroom. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

EDUCATION

New ‘Surrey Blended’ online option aims to offer flexibility to students

‘We are attempting to meet the needs of our community in these unusual times,’ district says

A new “Surrey Blended” program is being rolled out for Surrey-area students who are not keen to return to class full-time this fall.

The “transition program” will be offered to both elementary and secondary students, Surrey Schools superintendent Jordan Tinney said in a video posted Monday (Aug. 31).

For elementary-aged kids, Surrey Blended “is a combination of online and face-to-face learning through your local school, with a goal of gradually increasing face-to-face instruction,” according to a post on surreyschools.ca.

The secondary-level program “offers flexibility for families that are planning to not return to school in September. School staff will work with individual families on plans for transition which may include a delayed start or reduced attendance, with a gradual transition back to full-time in-class instruction.”

(Story continues below video)

August 31: Additional Back-to-School Options from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.

In addition to Surrey Blended, students and parents can register for full-time in-class instruction. Secondary students are also given the option of Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning (SAIL), the district’s online school.

“We are attempting to meet the needs of our community in these unusual times,” says a message on the district’s website.

“These transition programs will provide additional choice and flexibility to our core offerings. While it will take some time to adjust and create these options to their full instructional design, we anticipate transition programs to be fully operational by September 21st, with an orientation for registered families during the week of September 14th.”

Along with others in B.C., the district shared its back-to-school plan last Wednesday, Aug. 26.

CLICK HERE to view plan details.

The “Surrey Schools Stage 2 Restart Plan for September 2020” document details the situation in the province’s largest school district.

A Ministry of Education news release included the following backgrounder for Surrey:

• To minimize contacts between learning groups, Surrey is accommodating grade 10-12 students every day in the morning and one day a week in the afternoon, while students in K-9 will have full-time access to the classroom. In Surrey’s plan, every secondary student will be in attendance every day.

• Children with special needs, those who require additional supports and children and youth in care will have priority access to technology, in-class instruction and additional supports.

• To reduce contact between learning groups, the district is staggering arrival and departure times for some of its larger schools, with different pick-up and drop-off times and/or locations for families depending on their learning groups.

• The district is also staggering the times students enter the school, as well as breaks and lunches, to minimize the numbers of people passing each other in the halls. The district will never have more than 60% of students sharing a lunch period and two times per week no more than 40% of a school will be on lunch.

• Surrey secondary schools are moving to a quarterly semester system, which means students have two courses every 10 weeks, minimizing the amount of time they need to change classes and keeping the size of learning groups small. The learning group size for grades 8 and 9 is 60 students. For grades 10-12 it is 30 students.

• Surrey has an Aboriginal Education Council, with representatives from the local Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations, BC Métis Nation, Fraser Valley Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association, Kekinow Housing, Surrey Principals and Vice Principals’ Association, Surrey Teachers’ Association and Aboriginal parents that meets to provide leadership on the education. The superintendent has also met with representatives of the local Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations about Surrey’s restart plan.

• First Nations students will be accommodated for remote learning, when requested.

• Surrey also has a distributed (online) learning option, which includes a blend of remote classes and in-person instruction for grades K-7, and more than 70 online courses, including project-based learning, for grades 8-12.

The Surrey district has more than 45,000 students in 101 elementary schools, and close to 28,000 students in 20 secondary schools.

“We are confident in our plans, but we know that many of our families are nervous,” stated Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. “Many of our students haven’t been in a school since March, so it’s normal to have some apprehension about returning. We want to support these families by offering transition programs for students in grades kindergarten through grade nine. These elementary and secondary transition programs will be available to all families who are not ready to have their child return to full-time face-to-face instruction when school begins in September.”

Tinney said the summer months have been busy for district employees as they “create and strengthen the learning options we are able to offer our students during this pandemic.

“Our senior leadership, and in particular principals and vice-principals, have been working hard to create plans for their schools that are safe, responsive to their staff and student needs, and consistent with the guidelines put forth by provincial health experts. This has not been an easy task, and we know that this pandemic is unpredictable, but the health and safety of our staff, students and parents is always our first priority.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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