A Grade 8 student at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

A Grade 8 student at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

‘People’s comfort levels are very different,’ says Surrey’s superintendent ahead of 1st day of school

District still anticipating 1,000 new students for the 2021-22 school year

The Surrey school district’s superintendent says that while “protocols permit it on day one,” it could be some time before there will be school-wide gatherings.

“I want to say that people across our district are in different places of comfort with the pandemic. I’m hoping that we ease into such changes, respecting that people’s comfort levels are very different and this transition will likely take time,” said Jordan Tinney in his latest video update on Wednesday (Sept. 1).

“It may be some time before we meet with hundreds of students in the gym, even though the protocols permit it on day one.”

Throughout the pandemic, Tinney has been sharing videos periodically to update the community on what’s happening in schools. This was his first video since June 22.

His video follows the Ministry of Education’s update on Aug. 24 for the upcoming school year, which saw Education Minister and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reinstating the indoor mask mandate for staff and students in grades 4 to 12. Masks are “encouraged” for students in kindergarten to Grade 3, Whiteside said.

READ ALSO: Masks required for Grade 4 and older in B.C. as part of return-to-school plan, Aug. 24, 2021

This year, there will be no cohorts, gatherings are allowed with some restrictions and distancing is not mandatory, Tinney noted. He said the two-metre social distancing rule has been “eased, but we’ll still be asking people to respect everyone’s private space and we’ll work with students and staff to limit physical contact.”

Tinney added structures “will begin to look a lot like they did in 2019,” with the return to full-time, face-to-face learning and the semester system.

For the 2021-22, the district is once again anticipating 1,000 new students despite lower enrolment numbers last year due to the pandemic. It expects to have a total enrolment of roughly 74,000 students.

“Year over year, our district continues to grow, with the number of new students equalling the population of a secondary school or a few elementary schools,” said Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen.

But Tinney said the mask mandate is the “most significant and visible reminder that we’re still in a pandemic.”

When it comes to notifications, of which the district sent out thousands of letters, Tinney said the district is still finding out what that process will look like for the 2021-22 school year.

“Last year we sent thousands of notices home to parents. For many parents, they appreciated the transparency and full openness, but for other parents, it was overwhelming and it increased their anxiety,” he said.

However, Tinney said he believes there will be notifications for isolations, outbreaks and clusters, but there won’t be notifications for single exposures in schools. He added “every individual who is at risk will be notified.”

Meantime, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring has written an open letter to all B.C. parents, encouraging those who are eligible to get vaccinated and to support a culture of mask-wearing for all students.

“September is a time of great excitement for students and their parents — but this year is different. The Delta variant is different. There is still excitement, but there is also uncertainty.”

LETTER: Mask rules in B.C. schools not enough to keep everyone safe: teachers’ fed prez, Sept. 1, 2021

OUR VIEW: Looming Surrey school year again laden with angst, Sept. 1, 2021

The Safe Schools Coalition, a group of concerned parents, guardians and teachers, is also pushing for a stronger mask mandate and upgrades to ventilation in schools.

The group held a rally on Saturday (Aug. 28) at Surrey’s Holland Park to bring attention to the issues.

READ ALSO: Parents, teachers rally for COVID-safe schools at Surrey park ahead of school year, Aug. 28, 2021

READ ALSO: Fraser Health says data review shows ‘limited’ COVID-19 transmission in Surrey schools, Aug. 25, 2021


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