It’s safe to send your child back to classes on June 1st.

That’s what School District 71 director of instruction, Allan Douglas, is saying with a return to in-class instruction just around the corner.

Douglas noted that all of the district staff have been trained in health and safety protocols, and their “number one priority” is to make sure students and staff are safe. 

Douglas says the province is calling it a voluntary K-5 return but the district is hoping to change that to K-7.

“We’ve made that request to (the B.C.) government because some of our schools are K-5, some are K-6, some are K-7, some are (Grades) 6-9, some are K-9, so we’ve asked for that,” Douglas said.

Looking at a K-5 return, Douglas pointed out that the district held a survey for parents, gauging their interest in sending their children back to classes.

Douglas said the response was impressive: “We have 4,800 children in K-7 and we’ve had 4,200 people respond which is pretty amazing in a few days. And of them, about 50 percent have said yes, so we’re planning for just over 2,000 children that want to come back on June 1st.”

The students who return will see a markedly different environment from when they left for spring break.

Douglas said the new rule will be “the rule of the half.”

“If the class had 28 children in it before, we can only have 14 at a time,” Douglas said. 

Children of essential workers, vulnerable students, and ones with learning challenges can come to school Monday to Friday. 

The rest of the students are divided into two groups. One will receive face-to-face instruction Monday and Tuesday, the other will come Thursday and Friday.

“On Wednesday the teacher will connect with those children that are still learning from at home that choose not to come for face-to-face (instruction), so that’s kind of how school will look for children that come back for elementary (school),” Douglas said. 

Other safety measures include designated pick-up and drop-off areas, staggered entry into school buildings, fewer pieces of furniture, and signage directing students which direction that they can walk.

Deciding not to send your child to school isn’t a “forever decision,” Douglas said, adding that if you change your mind, you can arrange a return with each school’s principal.

He said these are unprecedented times: “We have never gone through a pandemic. We’re designing the plane and flying it at the same time. Collectively, our senior team and our administrators… We have great people working on this and I think we do have a great plan, and we’re just ready and excited to invite kids back to school. That’s what we do best.”