British Columbia

Vancouver school board to reopen select programs for students with high learning needs

Attendance will be optional and only for select children with exceptionally high learning needs who depend on face-to-face support.

Attendance is optional and only for children who depend on face-to-face support

The president of the B.C. School Trustees Association says providing in-school support for students with exceptional high learning needs will also provide respite relief for their families. (Nicolas Amaya/CBC)

Families of students with special needs in Vancouver could have the option of sending their children back to brick-and-mortar school buildings next week. 

The Vancouver School Board says it is opening in-school instruction for students with "exceptionally high learning needs" that depend on face-to-face interaction with education support workers and specialized life skills programs.

Attendance is optional, only for these select students, and initially will only be happening at one city school that has these specific programs.

"This is not just about the students, it is about providing supports for the family as well," said Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association on The Early Edition.

Higginson said many parents of high-needs children are desperate for respite care, something that is not easy to come by during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this plan can offer those families some relief.

"It's nice to hear that VSB has found a way forward to do that," said Higginson, adding she expects to see other school districts follow suit soon.

Plans to expand

In a statement, VSB said the plan is to offer the program a few days a week with a student support worker and a teacher.

A letter sent April 17 from Warren Williams, president of CUPE Local 15 Vancouver, to members said there would be no more than three students at a time in the school three times per week.

Williams said in the letter there are 18 secondary school programs and three elementary programs where VSB has asked CUPE to provide service, but the two parties agree it is best to test the plan at one school first.

Members were told they are not required to wear masks but the VSB will provide hand sanitizer and gloves.

Higginson said school districts continue to take direction from provincial health officer Bonnie Henry who has yet to announce when it will be safe for all B.C. students to return to the classroom.

With files from The Early Edition

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