VICTORIA -- As schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a very different return from spring break for students on Vancouver Island this year.

On Monday, teachers in the Sooke School District (SD62) returned to empty schools after spring break to begin reconnecting with students remotely.

Over the next week, teachers around the region will be working with students and their families to assess each student’s capacity and ability to work online, or determine other options if online is not available.

“Now we’re back and in the midst of trying to figure out how we move forward with this. So, the first step is reaching out and connecting with our staff,” said Sooke School District superintendent Scott Stinson.

“We will have our staff reach out and connect with our families and our students.”

The Sooke school district says that as soon as it is practical, they will have continuity of learning up and running no later than mid-April, as directed by BC’s minister if education.

“Hopefully parents will gradually see that connection emerging over the next few days, [at the] end of the week and into next week,” said Stinson.

“This is not an attempt to replicate virtually what would happen on a day to day basis for our students in our schools,” he said. “It is a way to ensure that the essential element of learning continues to move forward for our students, so they are able to pick up those pieces as we move forward to the end of the year.”

The school district adds that it is communicating directly with grade 12 students who may be concerned about how the school year will end and if they will meet the requirements for a post-secondary education.

“They are the one’s that are having a fair amount of angst about what this year looks like and how we move forward, both in terms of transitioning into post-secondary and then final grades this year,” said Stinson.

“The minister has already said that we will ensure that everyone who is in a position to graduate will graduate.”

The Sooke school district is currently trying to determine what an appropriate amount of work would be for students, given that there are already many concerns in households during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last thing we want to do is add pressure to families, so we are trying to strike that right balance for them,” said Stinson.

“Everyone is dealing with a lot of stuff right now so we are trying to figure out what an appropriate amount of work is to get those essential elements done in the next while.”

The ministry of education, over the past week, has put together information including answers to frequently asked questions for students and teachers. However, what the actual amount of instruction looks like at each level will be developed locally within the guidelines set by the ministry.

“Depending on where the students were in their learning, each of our teachers will be making judgements based on the best interest of the student as to what essential elements need to be covered and where they were in terms of their learning,” said Stinson.

“It will largely be on a classroom-by-classroom basis depending on where students were prior to the break,” he said.

School District 62 is posting as much information on the district’s website for parents and students as possible. Parents are encouraged to check the website online here for the most current information and links to the B.C. ministry of education.

“All of our classrooms and all of our students will have slightly different needs in terms of their ability to connect for this continuity of learning,” said Stinson.

The district says that it will have remote learning opportunities up and running no later than mid-April, but some may be available sooner as they are prepared by teachers.

Further information on remote learning and online resources for home schooling can be found on the B.C. government’s Open School website here.