New ‘transitional program’ offered for Abbotsford parents as decision deadline looms

Abbotsford parents have until 4 p.m. on Friday to declare their plans for fall schooling

As parents consider where and how kids will learn this fall, the Abbotsford and Chilliwack school districts have each rolled out additional home supports this week for those wary about sending their children back to school.

While provincial and local school officials insist that in-class learning is preferred and can be managed even during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents have indicated that they would rather their kids learn at home this fall.

Up until this week, the main options for such parents were enrolling their children in online education courses, or de-enlisting their children locally and registering for homeschooling.

But both the Abbotsford and Chilliwack districts have rolled out new options that will allow parents to continue to have their children to enroll locally, while minimizing time spent at school.

This week, Abbotsford announced the introduction of what it is calling a “transitional program,” through which students will receive both online and face-to-face instruction.

For elementary and middle schoolers, students would receive online instruction each morning.

“In this model, families will have some choice about where their children do their learning, at home with parent support or at school with their transition learning group,” the district said in a news release. “The in-school portion will begin with one afternoon per week and gradually increase to three afternoons per week. The intent of the gradual increase in face to face instruction is to develop comfort and confidence in returning to school. Intentional connection to parents is built into the program so that they can learn various strategies to support their children at home. Parents need to dedicate substantial time for support and guidance in this program. Teachers will continue to liaise with parents to provide guidance for the home learning portion.”

For secondary schoolers, those in a transitional program would be placed in cohorts of no more than 30 students and would spend half the time in face-to-face instruction and half online.

Students also can enroll in the Abbotsford Virtual School, which allows students to receive and complete courses online, although there is exceptionally high demand for that program this year.

“We know that having students in the classroom is the best way to minimize learning gaps and provide the academic, social and emotional supports essential for learning,” explains Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools. “But we also recognize the desire for flexibility by our parents. Our Transition Program intends to gradually increase the amount of face-to-face learning in support of a slow transition to full-time in-class instruction while allowing students to remain enrolled at their registered school.”

Parents have been told that they must confirm their choice of learning by Friday, Sept. 4, at 4 p.m.

In Chilliwack, meanwhile, initial plans for school re-start in this district included only in-class learning, or a hybrid program similar which combines home and school in a manner similar to Abbotsford’s transitional program.

RELATED: Chilliwack school district and board chair confident in plan to return to classrooms

Distance Learning via Fraser Valley Distance Education is temporarily halted for a pre-planned restructuring. With that in mind, families who don’t want to send their children back to bricks and mortar schools were advised to seek out programs from other districts, or private companies.

But on Monday, the district announced a new “transition support” program which will be open to elementary, middle and secondary students.

For elementary and middle school students, a teacher will support “key learning areas,” including language arts, math, and core competencies.

For secondary students, a teacher will connect with the student at home for the first octet semester.

In all cases, the Learn From Home option is meant to be temporary, and the students will have the option of returning to in-class learning.

– with files from Jessica Peters

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