Surrey Schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney. (File photo)

Surrey high school cohorts to be ‘much smaller,’ Tinney says

Plans for Surrey elementary schools to be rolled out next week

Surrey public schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney laid out the district’s hybrid back-to-classes plan on Tuesday for secondary students that, subject to the provincial government’s approval, will see much smaller cohorts than those prescribed by the provincial health officer.

“Our top priority is to get our secondary schools configured, and our messaging with details about elementary schools will come next week,” he said in his Aug. 18 update, delivered in a Twitter video.

“This is all about managing the number of close contacts that students have as they attend school,” he said. “It’s about keeping our kids safe and getting children back to school.”

Surrey School District is B.C.’s largest and covers 328 square kilometres. It is also Surrey’s largest employer, with a staff of 11,731 serving 73,948 students in 101 elementary schools, 20 secondary schools, five student learning centres, and three adult education centres.

Tinney noted that schools, under provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines, will open in September in “cohorts” of up to 120 for secondary students and 60 for elementary pupils. But Surrey has designed a model that has cohorts that are “much smaller,” he said. Again, this is subject to the Ministry of Education’s approval.

“For students on our graduation program, again these are grades 10, 11 and 12, our cohort size is 30,” Tinney said. “For junior students, those in grades eight and nine, our cohort size is 60. We accomplish this by moving to a system that’s based on longer periods of instruction in 10-week increments.”

Tinney said this plan was designed under the direction of Surrey School District’s board of education, management team including senior staff, principals and vice-principals. He said it’s been shared with CUPE 728, the Surrey Teachers Association and District Parent Advisory Council.

“Our model keeps cohorts small and takes advantages of blended learning to make sure our students on the graduation program get the courses that they’ve selected and need.”

Surrey’s plan must be sent to the Ministry of Education on Aug. 21. If it’s approved, Tinney said, “We will then be fully public on Aug. 26. We will continue to consult, to adjust and to refine in the time ahead.”

Tinney said under this proposed model all secondary students will have two courses at a time, and move through them over 10 weeks. “This means that in the year students will get the eight courses that they selected when they did their course selection.”

Tinney said every Surrey secondary student will be attending classes every day, and graduation program students will have one block of “face-to-face” instruction and one block in a “blended model, which combines face-to-face and online learning.” Students in grades 10, 11 or 12, they be face-to-face all morning, five days per week, and face-to-face one afternoon per week on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

When students meet in the blended class, he explained, they’ll be online four days per week and face-to-face one day per week. “When students meet face-to-face in the blended class, the class size will be reduced to ensure physical distancing. The reason for the smaller class size in the afternoon, in the blended class, is because in the morning they will be in their natural cohort of 30 and then in the afternoon, they mix with students in other cohorts.”

READ ALSO: B.C. school staff, older students required to wear masks in ‘high traffic areas’

Meantime, students in grades eight and nine will be at school “100 per cent of the time, face to face.” That’s five full days per week.

They will also have one block in the morning and one in the afternoon. These blocks will be twice as long as a regular block, Tinney said. “This means that students will be in a group of 30 in the morning, and 30 more in the afternoon. This is the cohort of 60 for all grade eight and nine students.”

Junior students will arrive earlier than the older ones, and morning break and lunch time will be staggered so there will be no period when more than 40 per cent of a school’s population will be taking lunch at any time. “When school begins and ends, we have no more than 60 per cent of the students arriving or leaving,” Tinney said.

Earlier this week the Ministry of Education announced that students and staff in middle schools and high schools will be required to wear face masks in “high-traffic” areas like on buses and in hallways, expect those who cannot for medical reasons.

Masks are optional for elementary students.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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