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  • Tracy Sherlock

This week in education: NDP promise a new school for Olympic Village as covid exposure list grows

The Olympic Village was built for the 2010 Games, but is now a thriving neighbourhood, close to Vancouver's downtown. Parents have been clamouring for a school and now that an election is coming, the BC NDP is promising one. (Google Maps.)

With an election less than two weeks away, the BC NDP has promised to build a long-awaited school in the Olympic Village neighbourhood of Vancouver, the Vancouver Sun reports. About a year ago I wrote about parents’ frustration with the lack of a school in their neighbourhood. Lisa McAllister told me about her daughter who was due to start kindergarten this year, but who would have to enrol at Simon Fraser elementary -- if she was lucky enough to win a lottery to get in.

Vancouver is a changing city, with some areas, like downtown or near Olympic Village, exploding with condominium development that families with children can afford. Schools in those areas have been full for years and demand continues. In the older neighbourhoods, with more single family homes, schools have plenty of space. This imbalance has caused a conflict between the province, which pays for school construction, and the Vancouver School Board, which is responsible for determining which school a child will go to.

The Olympics have come and gone, more than a decade ago, and city plans have long called for a school to be built in Olympic Village by 2020. But despite the land being available and the school board asking for the money to build a school since 2007, the province hasn’t agreed. The school is one of the Vancouver School Board’s top priorities, but the province has been reluctant to build new schools in Vancouver because city schools have a lot of surplus space in some neighbourhoods. A year ago, a quote from then Education Minister Rob Fleming did not sound like he was planning to fund a school in Olympic Village anytime soon. I guess an election changes things. Only time will tell if the NDP wins and if they do, if they keep their promise.

Meanwhile, more than 100 B.C. schools have had covid-19 exposures in B.C., including several entire classes that have had to self-isolate. Surrey schools have had more than 50 of those exposures, Surrey’s superintendent of schools Jordan Tinney tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, B.C. has surpassed 10,000 covid-19 cases and other indicators are not so positive, either. The number of new cases reported this week is up over last week by 25 per cent, to 846 from 677. The number of active cases also rose, by 10 per cent. For the last seven days, B.C. averaged 110 new covid-19 cases each day. Nearly 500 people under 20 in B.C. have tested positive for covid-19 since school started, numbers provided by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show.

And parents are stressed out about going back to school during the pandemic too, a new poll shows. Forty-two per cent of Canadian parents report feeling stressed about the back-to-school process, according to the poll, conducted by Abacus Data and commissioned by Children First Canada. Parents of school-age children were surveyed between October 2 and 6.

“Not only are disruptions, delays, and confusion creating worry and stress for parents, but 40% report their kids are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or worried about how back-to-school has gone,” said David Coletto, Abacus Data CEO.

Nearly half of Canadian parents have chosen against returning to school full-time, in-class, the poll found. Fourteen per cent report a covid-19 outbreak at their children’s school and 13 per cent say their child has been sent home for covid-like symptoms.

In Coquitlam, students who are struggling in French immersion, particularly with remote learning due to covid-19, are having to change schools to join the English stream, Diane Strandberg reports. The executive director of Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon Branch says many school districts are failing to provide viable remote learning options for French immersion.

In Toronto, schools are reorganizing, shifting more than 500 elementary teachers to remote learning, and reconfiguring in-person classes, the Globe and Mail’s Caroline Alphonso reports. Thirty-seven per cent of students there have chosen virtual learning and the pandemic is surging in Ontario.

New York was one of the few major school systems across the United States to open public schools in person. Now, there’s a plan to close schools in some of the areas of the city where the virus is surging. They also have a plan to randomly 10 more than 10 per cent of students and staff in schools, the New York Times reports.

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