Full-Time Online Option Needed for BC Grade 9-12 Students for 2020-21 School Year
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attending school in British Columbia for 2020-21 is unsafe. The virus has proven to be extremely contagious and is dangerous to everyone, including children.
Students in Grades 9 through 12 learned effectively online during the latter half of the 2019-20 school year (from this past spring) when the pandemic began and BC schools closed.
Online learning will be far safer for teachers, staff, and students, as well as their parents, extended family, and the community, as it will reduce the amount of students in schools and on buses, and the transmission of the virus back to their homes. Some students and many family members have pre-existing conditions which make them very susceptible to both catching COVID-19 and suffering severe effects, which is something that has not at all been taken into consideration by any of the Ministry of Education school reopening plans.
There is essentially no extra cost to provide online education, as the tools for both the schools and families are very minimal - essentially, a basic computer and an internet connection. For those that need in-person instruction or support, either daily or occasionally, they can attend their regular school, as per the current BC Ministry of Education plans. This will mean that there will be far fewer people in schools daily, which will allow for safe physical distancing.
Teachers proved in the past spring that they were able to deliver course materials successfully online, as well as balance that with some in-person instruction - often doing video calls for online students and conducting in-person instruction simultaneously. This model is already a small part of the plans in some school districts, but the crucial thing that is missing is the option for students to complete all of their studies online, something that was available this past spring.
Making in-person, full-time education mandatory for high school students makes no sense, especially when cases are back on the rise, due to businesses re-opening. It risks the lives of many, and will likely create intense pressure on the health care system, especially as the flu season is coming up soon.
The mental health of students must remain a top priority - but using it as the main argument to make full-time, in-person schooling mandatory is not logical - the risks of a massive spike in COVID-19 cases is too high. While younger students may have problems learning online, older students are very accustomed to it.
The argument that schools reopening in-person is needed to help the economy, by allowing parents to return to work, does not apply in the case of older students, as they rarely require parental supervision. BC's universities and colleges are going to be almost entirely online this school year, so why aren't high schools doing this?
We in BC have worked very hard to flatten the curve, and it goes completely against science to suddenly have large groups congregating in schools. There is a chance that there will be an effective vaccine as early as February 2021, so having one year of online school is not going to have a major, long-term, negative impact. On the contrary, the option of online education is vital to the health and safety of British Columbians.
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