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90% of New West students are heading back to class next week

Every student who applied by deadline for one of the district's alternative options will get in, district says
Richard McBride Elementary School, New Westminster
Workers reinstall the playground at Richard McBride Elementary School in preparation for the return to class. Students return to school on Thursday, Sept. 10.

Nearly 90% of New Westminster students will be heading back to school for in-class instruction next week – and every student who applied for an alternative offering will get in.

That’s the word from the New Westminster school district on Friday, Sept. 4, as teachers and staff around the district get ready to welcome students back for a new school year starting next week.

Students are set to head back to classrooms on Thursday, Sept. 10 for two “orientation” days, with the full return to class starting Monday, Sept. 14.

“We’re happy to be welcoming back close to 90% of our students and families, who will be returning to our schools next week,” superintendent Karim Hachlaf said. “Now those schools might look and operate a bit differently than they did last September, but under the new layers of protocols and safety measures, we know they are the best place for most kids to learn.”

In the face of public concern over rising COVID-19 numbers around the province, the New Westminster school district – like others around B.C. – worked on providing alternatives to in-class instruction for those families who wanted it.

Key among those alternatives was a new online learning program for students in elementary and middle grades – a program that will now support more than 450 students.

“We’re particularly proud of the fact that, as a small district, we have created a brand new, robust, fully inclusive online learning program to support our kindergarten to Grade 8 students - including properly supporting students with diverse needs, as we’ll have staff like education assistants and counsellors available to support kids and families, in a similar but new way to how they would in a school,” Hachlaf said.

The school district also expanded the offerings for its existing online learning for grades 9 through 12, with new courses and an entirely new set of Grade 9 options. That program will see about 150 students studying full-time, with another 150 students pursuing part-time online learning (taking from one to three courses).

The school district also offered expanded space in the Hume Park Home Learners program, a form of what’s known as “distributed learning” that combines family involvement with part-time teacher-led education at the Hume Park centre. About 40 new students will join that program this fall.

“Priority placement in online learning for K to 8, Home Learners at Hume Park and our online learning for 9 to 12 was given to the many students and families who are facing health concerns in their homes right now,” Hachlaf said. “But, given what we were hearing from other families as well – the varied levels of anxiety and caution they each are facing – we knew it would be the right thing to push our capacity and make spaces for every student and family who had applied by the deadline.”

Among the significant changes in the district this year will be the introduction of a “quarter” system, rather than semesters, for grades 10 through 12 students at NWSS.

Students at all grade levels will also be placed into learning groups, or cohorts, to limit their contacts not just in class but also on breaks and in shared spaces. For New Westminster schools, elementary students will be placed in cohorts of no more than 30 people, while middle school cohorts have up to a maximum of 60 and the secondary school averages from 90 to 100.

Daytime custodians will be present in schools, and extra handwashing stations have been installed throughout the district, including in all portable classrooms.

All families will need to agree to new health protocols, including keeping students home if they have any symptom related to colds, flu or COVID-19.

For more on the district’s back-to-school plans, see the full plan online at