Students aren’t in class but teachers have been busy since returning after spring break. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

School District 27 staff provide teaching, supervising and food services through pandemic

‘Anything we can do to help,’ says superintendent Chris van der Mark

School District 27 has mobilized its staff, and they are all working to make a positive difference in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic since returning from spring break and the cancellation of in-class learning, said superintendent Chris van der Mark.

“We were entering a big unknown,” van der Mark said of when school resumed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “One of our big challenges was that every morning you see the prime minister and he’s saying everybody stay home and yet we’ve been given direction to provide support to Tier 1 and Tier 2 workers which means everybody can’t be home and so trying to reconcile and have people understand that there’s a difference between the general population message and those parts of the work force that’s being required to continue. It’s not possible for everyone to stay home.”

Districts throughout the province including SD 27 have been directed to provide supervision to children of health care workers first, and now also other essential workers, to provide support to vulnerable families and to offer continuity of learning by way of engaging with students through online learning.

Read More: Back to school: District 27 workforce to provide critical support during COVID-19 pandemic

There are currently about 40 requests for teacher supervision of students, whose parents are front line health care workers and more requests are expected with the addition of Tier 2 workers, he said.

The Interior Health Authority has given the district guidance on how to supervise children during the COVID-19 pandemic, and told the district that transmission of the virus from children to adults “does not seem to be a concern.”

van der Mark said they have also reduced the risk by not having as many children at a site for social distancing.

Marie Sharpe and Mountview elementary schools in Williams Lake, and 100 Mile Elementary in 100 Mile House are the school sites for the supervision programs.

To support online learning, “several hundred” devices for children to learn at home who do not have the equipment needed were sent out to students.

Van der Mark said the first food delivery to needy students was delivered across the district by bus drivers to about 450 students last week, noting the program is “like an elaborate version of meals on wheels.”

“Anything we can do to help. We’re in a fortunate position in that people across our agency are still employed and if there are services we can do to help other folks out through a pretty difficult situation then we are more than happy to do our part. We just want to make sure we are available and we can make this easier for folks. This (time during the pandemic) is going to be a marathon not a sprint.”

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