The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Hit the Brakes: Five Things that Must Change Before BC Schools Reopen

Back-to-school plans leave parents facing too few options and too many risks. A delay until Oct. 1 would allow time to get things right.

Valerie Irvine 31 Aug 2020 |

Valerie Irvine is an assistant professor of educational technology and co-director of the Technology Integration and Evaluation Research Lab in the University of Victoria’s faculty of education.

Schools are community hubs and, especially during a pandemic, the community must stay together. Speaking as both a professor in educational technology and a full-time single parent, B.C.’s back-to-school plan is not ready yet.

Parents face an immediate decision between brick-and-mortar school, distributed learning where they work with teachers but give up their connection to a local school, or registered homeschooling for their child.

Education Minister Rob Fleming has “extended the authority to all school boards to flexibly offer remote learning programs to students within their districts and local brick-and-mortar schools.” But all 60 school districts are interpreting this differently, and parents do not have the information needed to make the critical decision on returning their children to school.

Distributed learning options link students with a school and teachers as they study largely at home. Not all school districts have their own distributed learning school, so students may be connected with a school in a distant community. Even if it is offered within their district, students may be pushed out of their local school and be disconnected from their network of friends. Class sizes are larger, with a teacher handling up to 200 students compared with 30 in a local school. Students who opt for distributed learning this year are also not guaranteed a chance to return to their neighbourhood school.

Some districts say they present remote options, but the devil is in the details. These remote options may still remove learners from their local schools.

Teachers and parents want the same things: to prioritize prevention above contact tracing, smaller class sizes, and remote options that keep learners enrolled in their local school.

Under the current plan, many families will withdraw to distributed learning or homeschooling because of their discomfort with the lack of individual health precautions or because they cannot be assured their child with disabilities will receive adequate support. This puts a greater burden on vulnerable learners and parents — disproportionately women — and threatens the public education system as a whole because it means lower funding and reduced diversity. Teacher jobs will be cut as homeschooling doesn’t involve one, and one teacher at a distributed learning school may replace several brick-and-mortar school teachers.

It seems the back-to-school plan originated with the Ministry of Health’s desire to rely on contact tracing to identify cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19. What may be a good population-level health system for containment will not result in a robust education system. It does not support inclusion and equity, which are pillars of a strong education system, nor does it protect individuals’ rights to a safe education while increasing the individual risk of transmission to vulnerable family members.

The government should be working to keep learners enrolled in local public schools by addressing these concerns. That would maintain connections to the school, allow daily health checks, and preserve K-12 sector jobs.

Embedding remote schooling options within catchment schools is the only model that can provide greater equity across the province, as families can clearly see the inequalities between district plans.

Here are five steps for fixing the current situation.

Conduct a proper needs assessment of learners and teachers. Plans are being developed without proper consultation. The recent parent surveys were inadequate, so must be repeated with some standardized questions across the province. By surveying teachers, we may find overlap in remote teaching interests with learners.

Let students choose their learning option. Provide the opportunity for remote learning, in-school classes, or a blended option as requested by all families, so they can make their own health risk assessments without being marginalized. Requiring a doctor’s note for remote accommodation for autoimmune learners is pedantic, invasive, and unnecessary, plus a tax on the health system. If families aren’t provided with options, many will simply enrol and then not send their children while demanding learning support.

Remote options must be embedded within community schools. Districts must retain learners within their community schools with their friends and trusted staff, and support remote learning through creative designs — at the classroom level, school level, and by combining the efforts of schools. For quality online learning, class size should be equal to in-person options.

Address assessment. Research has shown grades have low reliability. Schools can already give parents the option to request anecdotal report cards (except in Grades 11-12 which require grades for post-secondary admissions). All B.C. schools need to make anecdotal report cards the default and provide parents graded report cards upon request. There should be resources aimed at providing equitable support in Grades 11 and 12, as grades are important for students’ futures and this year will be disruptive.

Rethink our approach to the curriculum. In the spring, some teachers felt compelled to “cover the curriculum” before the school year ended. This created unnecessary pressure on their learners and themselves. The new B.C. curriculum was built to be flexible and provide more co-created inquiry-based learning and learner agency. It’s time to take advantage of that and prioritize social and emotional well-being.

These steps take time. The start date needs to be pushed back to Oct. 1.  [Tyee]

Read more: Education, Coronavirus

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Do You Think the Injunction at Fairy Creek Will Be Reinstated?

Take this week's poll