British Columbia

Province urges more in-class learning for Vancouver high-school students

B.C.’s education ministry is again pushing the Vancouver School District to "maximize" in-class instructional time for high school students. In a letter obtained by CBC News, the ministry said Vancouver is one of a few districts providing less than 75 per cent of instructional time in-person.

VSB says board and staff will meet to review letter and discuss next steps

B.C.'s Ministry of Education has sent a letter to the Vancouver School Board calling for a further review of its high school program and for increased in-class learning. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C.'s education ministry is again pushing the Vancouver School District to increase in-class instructional time for high school students.

In a Feb. 12 letter to Vancouver superintendent Suzanne Hoffman provided to CBC News, Deputy Minister Scott MacDonald urged the district to "further review" its high school program and maximize in-person and online learning with teacher supervision, especially for students in grades 8 and 9.

"The ministry has conducted a review of education delivery across all 60 school districts and the Vancouver School Board is one of a few that are providing less than 75 per cent of their instruction at the secondary school level in person," the letter read.

It added that despite consultation efforts, "there remains a concern, especially for grades 8 and 9, that students are being asked to complete a large proportion of 'remote learning' without access to the support of a teacher."

The letter concludes by asking the board to share its plans to maximize in-class learning with the ministry by Feb. 26.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the school district said staff are meeting with the Vancouver School Board (VSB) later this week to review the letter and discuss next steps.

Parents Nathan Hume, left, and Dr. Corinne Hohl are pictured outside Kitsilano Secondary School in Vancouver. Hohl said despite the Vancouver School Board's announced changes to high school schedules, her son and others are still getting less instructional time than peers in other school districts. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Parents complain

The letter notes a survey by the Vancouver School District Parent Advisory Council found nearly 75 per cent of parents are asking for more in-person instruction.

Whether online or in person, the letter added, it is important to make sure there are enough opportunities for instructional time with a teacher.

"Equally important is the need to engage your board, parents and other partners to ensure they are satisfied and confident with the delivery of education in your district," it said.

A group of parents complained to the board in January about the lack of in-person instruction. They said their kids were only getting about one-third the instructional time secondary students in other districts were receiving. 

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside echoed those concerns in January and said a review of the VSB's high school model was underway.

"It is my expectation that VSB and all school districts adhere to the amount of instructional hours specified in the School Act," Whiteside said in a statement last month.

Parent says changes not enough

The VSB made some changes to secondary school schedules to increase instructional hours as of Feb. 4.

Grade 8 students now attend their remote class twice a week in-person, go to a one-week rotation of remote and in-person classes, and will have three interactive learning opportunities per week for remote classes, with increased social interaction.

But Dr. Corinne Hohl said the changes only meant a two-hour increase in instructional time for her son, a Grade 8 student at Kitsilano Secondary.

She said her son is receiving 10 hours and 45 minutes of instructional time each week, compared to the 23 hours or more students receive in North Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey.

"We have noticed very little change," Hohl said. "My son is still at home. All the kids are still at home for the majority of the day, isolated and not in school."

She said she is encouraged the ministry is getting involved and hopes it will lead to high schools in Vancouver reaching parity with those in neighbouring school districts.

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten. Liam contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where he investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

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