Lucas and Maddy, Kanaka Creek Elementary students, were happy to be back at school. (Contributed)

Slow start for in-class instruction across Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Only 18 per cent of elementary students and five per cent of secondary students attend in person

In-school attendance across Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has ranged from about five per cent to 18 per cent since schools opened their doors on Monday.

Out of a total enrolment of 8,989 elementary school students, 602 attended classes on June 1, or 6.7 per cent. That percentage jumped to 1,668, or 18.56 per cent by June 2.

Meanwhile, secondary schools saw around five per cent attendance on both days.

Out of a total enrolment of 5491 students, only 321 attended classes in-person on the first day of in-class instruction, or 5.85 per cent, and on the second day attendance dropped to 289 students, or 5.26 per cent.

Highland Park Elementary had the highest percentage of attendance in the district at 29.20 per cent, or 99 students of 339 returning to school on Tuesday.

Samuel Robertson Technical had the highest percentage of secondary students on the first day of in-class instruction, with 86 students returning to class out of 745 students enrolled at the school – or 11.54 per cent. Although, on day two, only one student attended classes.

READ MORE: What returning to school in a pandemic may look like in Ridge Meadows

Westview Secondary had the next highest percentage with more than nine per cent of total enrolment showing up each day.

School District 42 assistant superintendent Jovo Bikic had a chance to drop by some of the schools Monday and Tuesday and said the vibe was “really nice.”

“You could see the kids were excited,” Bikic said.

The biggest challenge, now, for the school district, he noted, will be maintaining that care and connection with the students while making adjustments to changes in the school environment.

“It’s that change factor,” said Bikic.

“How do you, now, kind of go through and adjust to the new changes that have occurred and the new expectations,” Bikic said.

Jon Wheatley, principal a c’usqunela elementary, is happy to be back, and is happy his students are adapting to the new routines.

Although, he said, with smaller groups of students, it is easier to teach.

READ MORE: B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Out of 450 students enrolled at the school, 53 attended in-class on Monday and 127 on Tuesday.

Most classrooms at the school have had five to seven students in them, while a few had 11 students.

The school has implemented a soft start and finish where parents can drop off their children and pick them up any time within the 15 minutes before school starts and 15 minutes after instruction ends at the end of the day, in order to keep social distancing between both the adults and the children.

Bathrooms in the school have been designated to certain pods, or groups of students at the school, in order to limit the interaction and cross-contamination between them.

And, students wash their hands when they first enter the school at the beginning of the day, as well as before and after recess, said Wheatley.

“By and large, they’ve sort of figured it out pretty quick and obviously this school is set up well for it. It’s got big wide hallways and lots of entrances so we’ve been able to spread out kids coming and going,” he added.

Bikic thinks it was worth it for students to return to school with only three weeks left to go in the school year.

“I think it’s important that kids get that chance to reconnect directly with teachers, because really the best education happens when it is face-to-face and in groups,” said Bikic.

“And it gives people a chance to re-emerge because I think that we can’t stay in this state forever,” he said.

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