Delayed

The families of 853 Kelowna-area students are choosing a delayed enrolment date of mid-November, largely due to concerns about COVID-19, education officials say. A physical distancing sign at Vancouver school is shown in this file photo.

A delayed enrolment date of mid-November for Central Okanagan Public Schools has been chosen by the families of 853 Kelowna-area students.

That represents less than five per cent of the district's total enrolment.

Board chair Moyra Baxter believes the relatively low number opting for delayed enrolment suggests the overwhelming majority of parents believe it is safe despite the ongoing pandemic to send their kids back to school.

"I'm hoping that parents are confident the best thing to do is to get students back to school, and they're confident we've put in place things to support students and to keep everybody safe," Baxter said Tuesday.

Trustees will get an update on how things are going at schools across the district from superintendent Kevin Kaardal at Wednesday night's meeting.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, and the necessity for the district to adopt a raft of new health and safety procedures, as well as currently degraded air quality, Baxter said she believed the re-opening process has gone as smoothly as could have been hoped.

Teacher absences due to illness, for example, are in line with numbers seen in previous Septembers, Baxter said. The BC Teachers Federation on Monday told its 41,000 members they should call in sick if they were feeling ill because of symptoms brought on by the poor air quality.

Some Kelowna-area elementary schools cancelled outdoor recess on Monday because of heavy smoke.

Parents who opt to keep their children out of school because of their concerns over the pandemic are expected to register them with the district's e-learning program. A spot for the child will be held at their local school until Nov. 13 but they can return to class before then.

As of Tuesday morning, 519 students in K-9 were registered for e-learning and delayed in-class enrolment, as were a further 334 students in grades 10 through 12.

Wednesday's board meeting will again be conducted under COVID-19 measures, with no in-person attendance by members of the public. The number of people tuning in to board meetings via Zoom has ranged from less than a half-dozen in the spring to as many as 450 for the first meeting in September.