As the Surrey school district prepares for its final quarter of the 2020/2021 school year to start on Monday (April 19), there have been talks of fewer students planning to attend in-person for the final two months.
Surrey Teachers’ Association first vice-president Julia MacRae said she’s heard “different anecdotal things” in regards to “dwindling attendance, especially where there’s been (COVID-19) exposures” or “where the fear of COVID is real in that school.”
“I mean, also, people are very burnt out,” said MacRae, adding “just the constant tension about the fear and suspecting the school might be affected by transmission and just wanting to be safer.”
MacRae noted it’s hard for the teachers to “go on and ignore the kids who aren’t there.”
“We were told in the beginning of the year—which we were really grateful to hear — was there were no expectations for teachers to teach presently and remotely at the same time, like that’s just too much for one miracle worker to do.”
But, she said, there are “teachers who are doing innovative things or they’re going above and beyond to provide extra work for kids who aren’t there and facilitate there.”
The Surrey Now-Leader has reached out to the Surrey school district for data on student absences, but has not yet heard back.
STA president Matt Westphal tweeted April 12 that a secondary school counsellor in the district told him that “many students are saying they plan to stay home in the fourth quarter of the school year, because school doesn’t feel safe.”
— Matt Westphal (@vauvent) April 13, 2021
MacRae said, in some cases, “it’s fine for the kids.” She said some parents are able to engage and help with the students’ learning, but that’s not the case for everyone.
“Maybe it’s fine for some parents. Then for others, it really means that the child is more at risk, they’re not supervised enough, they don’t have access to what they need to learn and it impacts their mental health to not be around other people. So of course we have those concerns and I know the health department and the school district has the same concern. They know school is good for kids.”
MacRae said some Grade 12 students might have already completed the necessary courses to graduate, so that could contribute to fewer students attending in the fourth quarter.
Meantime, she noted that if students or their parents are choosing to keep kids home for the final few weeks of schools, it would mean that schools “would actually have physical distancing.”
“I don’t want to say it’s positive because some kids are missing out, but in terms of safety for the other kids and the staff, it’s a little safer with fewer kids.”