More than 23,000 computers and devices are being loaned out in every part of the province, so students can access the internet and continue their education while in-class learning is suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, more than ever, we must come together to help children and families who are struggling in our communities,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “That’s why we’re working closely with all 60 school districts to quickly provide parents and children with the supports they need to connect with each other, teachers and learning opportunities.”
Immediately after spring break, school staff began contacting families to find out their unique needs. School districts then began creating solutions that would work best for their local communities.
School districts heard there are families who have no computer for their children to use, with some finding up to 30% of families surveyed had no access to technology at all. There were also cases where there was only one computer in the home being used by a parent for full-time work. Districts also heard from families who have limited Wi-Fi or no access to internet or cellphone service.
“Boards of education across British Columbia understand the diverse learning needs of the students they serve,” said Stephanie Higginson, president, BC School Trustees Association. “Boards of education know that learning solutions need to be tailored to local community needs. These technology loans are one small way boards are working to ensure that the needs of some of our most vulnerable students are met during these uncertain times.”
To meet the needs of families, school district staff have worked quickly to identify and collect equipment already available in schools, while also purchasing extra computers, laptops, tablets and other devices. Some school districts have redeployed their computer technicians to pre-install learning software or to provide tech support for families who struggle to use technology.
To help kids who do not have adequate internet access, school districts have worked with internet service providers to ensure families have low-cost internet or unlimited cellphone data plans. Local internet hotspots have also been created to ensure free Wi-Fi is available to multiple families in a neighbourhood.
In situations where students are living in remote regions with little or no internet or cellphone access, education assistants have been delivering printed learning packages or flash thumb drives with everything the student needs for continued learning at home. Some schools are allowing students access to school computer labs, and some First Nations have opened their band offices for students, while maintaining the strict health and safety standards set by the provincial health officer.
“Parents appreciate the incredible collaboration between K-12 education and the Ministry of Education to ensure educators can shift from in-class learning to remote learning for each child,” said Andrea Sinclair, president, British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC). “BCCPAC believes equity and equal opportunity are essential in public education and maintaining the connection with children is key. Families, especially those who are low income or living in rural and remote regions, must have devices and connectivity so their children can continue learning during this unique time.”
To support families looking for additional resources to help their children learn remotely, the Ministry of Education has created the Keep Learning website, which is updated almost daily with new activities for kids of any age. The website receives hundreds of thousands of visitors and page views every week and can be found at: www.openschool.bc.ca/KeepLearning
- In addition to equipment support, there are approximately:
- 2,300 spaces created in schools to support children of essential-service workers in public schools and 1,280 spaces in independent schools; and
- 75,000 meals delivered to 16,000 families for vulnerable children every week.
- The Ministry of Education has secured and funded enterprise licences with added security features for the application Zoom for all K-12 public, independent and First Nations schools in the province. This allows consistent access for educators who choose to use it, giving them more ways to connect with students, parents and guardians.
The Ministry of Education worked with the privacy commissioner to create a set of guidelines for educators when using any online tools: https://www.oipc.bc.ca/guidance-documents/2402
Accurate, timely information about schools, programs and educational services, including regularly updated frequently asked questions in multiple languages, is available at: www.gov.bc.ca/SafeSchools
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/
Or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.
For the provincial health officer’s orders, notices and guidance, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/phoguidance
For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/Covid-19
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.