Central Okanagan schools adjusting to changes

In-class instruction registration reaches 97 per cent of school district’s 22,403 students

A Central Okanagan school trustee wants the board of education to reconsider enrolment priority for parents who opted to take their kids out of the of the school system and register in an alternative education program earlier this summer.

Lake Country trustee Amy Geistlinger said parents who registered their kids in other programs because of COVID-19 concerns in June or July weren’t aware yet the province would make a commitment to enhance remote learning instruction in August.

Geistlinger advocated those students be placed somewhere on the enrolment priority list should their families decide to register them back in their catchment school next year.

In a policy recently updated by the school board, students who were registered in school district remote learning programs would have a spot held for them in their catchment school until Nov. 13. After that, they have to wait until the 2021-22 enrolment period and would be placed fourth on the priority registration list.

Students placed outside school district remote learning programs were not included in the priority list rankings.

“I just find that an inequitable situation for those parents to face,” Geistlinger said.

School board chairperson Moyra Baxter said it was also inequitable to hold a spot for students in their catchment school who were enrolled in another learning program outside the school district.

“Once they leave the school district, they are no longer students of ours,” Baxter said.

However, the board supported Geistlinger’s motion to discuss the matter further at an upcoming board meeting.

Meanwhile, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal reported the first week of school under the COVID-19 public health restrictions was generally very positive, with enrolment at 97 per cent of students attending in-class instruction and three per cent attending the SchoolBC district remote learning programs.

Kaardal said as of Sept. 11, 22,403 students were registered in the school system, representing a decrease of 141 under projections and 139 over Sept. 30, 2019, numbers (22,264).

He said a more accurate count will be provided at the Sept. 30 board meeting, but he noted falling short of budgeted enrolment projections for the 2020-21 could have some funding implications for the board down the road.

Another revenue generating issue concerns the school district international education program, which faces challenges this year due to the global impact of COVID-19.

The superintendent/CEO’s report stated 589 students were confirmed to attend Central Okanagan schools in this school year, but so far only 157 fee paying students have arrived while another 247 who planned to come are getting hung up by visa issues leaving them unable to enter Canada.

“Many other students have delayed to the 2021-22 year instead of outright cancelling their experience abroad,” the reported noted.

Kaardal said that is another financial issue the board may face because the international education program revenue supports other school programs that otherwise would not have available funding.

The students participating in the program represent a wide array of countries: Hong Kong, Germany, Czech Republic, China, Jamaica, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, South Korea, Vietnam and Spain to name a few.

Kaardal also applauded the efforts of the school district staff who have faced significant reorganization adjustments in adapting the schools to the pandemic-imposed changes where the policy variables, particularly in July and August, were changing on a daily and weekly basis leading up to the Sept. 10 school reopening.

“We are all learning to do things differently,” Kaardal said.

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