It’s back to school for most Boundary students, starting Thursday

Eighth-graders in Grand Forks and Boundary Central secondaries started high school in the COVID-19 pandemic

Boundary students had their first days at school Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10 and 11 — for many, it was their first time in a classroom since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered British Columbia schools last March.

Primary schoolers (grades K-3) and high school juniors (grades 8-10), attended three-hour orientations Thursday morning, as teachers brought them up to speed on School District 51’s new COVID-19 guidelines, explained Superintendent Ken Minette.

READ MORE: SD-51 takes “health first” approach to back to school plan

Intermediate students (grades 4-7) and high school seniors (grades 11 and 12) got the same welcome Friday, Sept. 11.

All Boundary students had their first full day of classroom instruction Monday, Sept. 14, according to Minette.

Perhaps a strange welcome to high school

At Grand Forks Secondary School, principal Brian Foy, greeted GFSS juniors as they walked off their school bus Thursday morning.

After some milling about on the school lawn, the eighth and ninth-graders formed an orderly queue behind tables where teachers took attendance and gave face masks to children who hadn’t brought their own.

Teachers at GFSS took attendance outdoors as grade eights geared up for high school Thursday, Sept. 10 (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

Everyone — students, staff, and this reporter, had to wear a mask to enter the building.

Inside, Principal Foy welcomed the eighth-graders at an auditorium assembly.

“It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable right now,” he assured the fidgeting children. “You haven’t done this before.”

This was plainly obvious after teachers’ repeated instructions to students who had to sit two seats apart.

Crisis or opportunity?

Principal Foy used a clip from “The Simpsons” to illustrate his point that the crises we meet in life often foist opportunities on us.

Practicing kindness and watching out for a common well-being was, in a laughable portmanteau by cartoon family patriarch, Homer, a “crisis-ortunity!” in disguise.

Thursday was the first day back not just for elementary and high school students across the Boundary, but also for area parents who chose to keep their kids at home.

For the estimated five to 10 per cent of students taking School District 51’s “distance learning” (DL) option, Superintendent Ken Minette said designated educators will be teaching remotely.

READ MORE: SD 51 to offer distance learning during pandemic

But, Minette explained that DL won’t meet all students’ needs.

Parents will likely shoulder a great deal of responsibility in terms of motivating their kids to learn and holding them to task as assignments come due, he said. DL teachers will help out as best they can, but he said their teaching won’t be as productive as in the classroom.

Minette encouraged parents children with special needs to send their kids to the classroom, where teachers and eduactional assistants can offer more focused attention.

Grand Forks mom, Erin Perkins, told the Gazette that she and her husband chose DL for their son, Marcus, for the first 10 weeks semester.

Grand Forks literacy advocate, Erin Perkins, opted for “distance learning” for her son, Marcus (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

The 13-year-old lives with a family member with a pre-existing health condition. Meanwhile, Perkins said she expected the approaching cold and flu season will trigger another shutdown in the fall.

Perkins, who serves as a community coordinator for the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL), said her family opted for DL because she wanted to keep Marcus enrolled in SD-51.

“It has nothing to do with my confidence in the school system,” she said. “I think the [school] district is doing the absolute best that it can.”

Asked how her family would adjust, Perkins said, “I’m not sure what it’s going to look like,” adding that Marcus’s course load would be “really manageable from home.”


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