‘This needs to end now’: , Parents, education minister worried by Vancouver schools’ in-class model

Vancouver parents who have been stressing about their childrens’ academic future and well-being now see a flicker of hope that change may be on the horizon.

The Vancouver School Board offers secondary students 105 minutes of in-class learning everyday, which translates to 8.75 hours a week, and students spend the other half of the day learning online.

“This hybrid model that is going on with a VSB right now is an outlier and it can absolutely not continue next year. It needs to end now,” said Mary Kestler, a parent with an eighth and ninth grader.

Kestler said her youngest is struggling the most to adjust to high school.

“I think she has valiantly tried to make that work, and has gone from being very enthusiastic and excited about school… and I think, has now wound up being pretty anxious and depressed and bored – it’s been heartbreaking to watch,” she said.

For months, parents have been sounding the alarm that there is a wide disparity between how much in-person instruction time their kids are getting compared to students in other districts.

Those in grades eight and nine are in class full-time in nearby cities like Burnaby, North Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond.

While those in the senior grades in those cities are getting at least twice the amount of in-class learning when compared to Vancouver.

“I would be extremely happy if the Vancouver School Board was able to do what every other surrounding school district is currently doing. Grade eights and nines must be in school fulltime. It is too young to expect those children to be managing their academics at home alone,” Hestler said.

The parents point out that 8.75 hours of in-class time violates the B.C. School Act.

The education minister said she also shares the parents’ concerns.

“It is my expectation that VSB and all school districts adhere to the amount of instructional hours specified in the School Act. School districts will meet these expectations in a variety of ways, whether in class and/or virtually. I’m hopeful that the VSB can provide solutions to its instruction model to ensure appropriate delivery of an education program that meets the needs of their communities,” Minister Jennifer Whiteside said in a statement.

She said she’s been assured the VSB is conducting a review involving parents, students and other stakeholders.

But some students are not convinced that more class time is the answer.

“I can sometimes find it a bit stressful: sitting in a classroom with a bunch of other people when the messaging is that you should see as few people and be as far apart and as outdoors as possible,” said Agatha Milley, a 12th grader.

Others also echo that sentiment.

“I feel like it’s safe to stay home when you can. So as long as I can learn from online, I think it’s a good idea to do so,” said Erik Robinson, another 12th grader.

But they also voice their concerns that coming to school for one hour and 45 minutes can be seen as a waste of time, and they are worried they’re not being prepared for university.

The VSB said its current system had been approved by the ministry and was developed by the input of students’ families and staff. 

It is hosting a meeting Wednesday night to discuss what it found in its review and whether any changes will be made.

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