Students outside Chilliwack Secondary School on Sept. 15, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)

Students outside Chilliwack Secondary School on Sept. 15, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)

TOP STORIES 2020: Parents spent 2020 worrying about school transmission

OPINION: Chilliwack schools saw a drop in enrolment as case numbers and fears rose in the fall

“Should we send our kids to school or not?”

That was the big question of 2020, as parents struggled to find the right answer for their families.

The concern became local on Feb. 21, when Fraser Health announced the first presumptive case of the virus in a school community.

By March 6, the pandemic was enough of a travel issue to force the Chilliwack School District to cancel a student trip to France. Days later, all international trips were cancelled, including Kenya, and one to both Scotland and Ireland. At least one family was still waiting on a full refund for a trip as of mid-December.

On March 18, Rob Fleming, then-minister of education, suspended all in-class instruction indefinitely. For some, it became known as the “spring break that never ended.”

Parents wanted to know how their kids would continue to receive their education safely.

“This is, indeed, an unprecedented time but I know we will weather this storm and come out stronger, given our resolve and caring for each other in this great school community,” interim superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam wrote to parents March 26.

In April, devastating news came that graduation ceremonies would not go forward as they have traditionally have. In a society where everything had moved online, grad celebrations would follow suit. No proms. No giant photo shoots. No dry grad.

We received calls, emails and private messages that ranged in tone from anger to disbelief. But graduation ceremonies were had, after all. Teachers, administrators and parents went to great lengths to hold virtual ceremonies in small groups. It took weeks, film crews and a lot of extra planning, but they happened. Educators drove house to house to hold quick driveway celebrations, handing out awards along with confetti.

Meanwhile, some students returned to classrooms for the final weeks of the school year.

A special program was set up for children of essential workers at two Chilliwack schools, where educators innovated amongst themselves and learned on the fly how to teach in person during a pandemic.

Other teachers, and their students, bravely navigated teaching and learning online in real time. Online meetings, emails and more kept everyone at least partially connected as the district attempted to keep everyone up to speed on the basics.

COVID-19 numbers stayed low in B.C., and it all seemed somewhat of a success as summer arrived.

That is until September, and the realization that online learning would be limited. Just over 900 students enrolled in the district’s transition support program, which keeps them enrolled and connected to their school and teacher, but safely at home. That program was successful enough that it’s been extended to spring break in 2021.

COVID-19 made its arrival in the Chilliwack school community in late September, and rumours online caused outright panic. Parents were terrified and pulled their kids from the classroom, demanding better online options.

Then in late October, a number of cases were found among young dancers in the community. That caused even more concern, which in turn led to a drop in classroom attendance. Absentee rates hit about 30 per cent.

But things stabilized somewhat after that. Masks became more popular among students, and it has become easier to get tested, allowing for earlier quarantines.

Still, there are complaints about the process. Parents aren’t happy with the information lag from Fraser Health. In December, Fraser Health announced changes to their notification system, but parents have learned to rely on each other for the fastest information.

The winter break is seen as both a potential help and hindrance. While most kids won’t be seeing each other for two weeks, there is a fear that people not adhering to public health orders will facilitate more community spread – a factor that continues to be mirrored in the school setting.

For now, all parents can do is wait, and wonder.


READ MORE: COVID-19 exposures in at least a dozen Chilliwack schools

READ MORE: COVID-19 exposures on three school buses in Chilliwack

READ MORE: Chilliwack school district releases back-to-school protocols

READ MORE: Chilliwack school district cancels all international trips due to COVID-19

READ MORE: Chilliwack school district plan includes one-course semester schedule


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School DistrictCoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. (File photo)
UPDATE: 2 cougars killed following attack in Harrison Mills

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Abbotsford graphic designer pitches Flyers rebrand for AHL team

Alex Svarez suggests new affiliate team turns back the clock and brings back Flyers moniker

Mike Haire, a former vice-principal at W. A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, began court proceedings on Monday, May 3 in New Westminster for two child pornography offences.
Trial paused for former Abbotsford vice-principal charged with child porn

Judge reserves decision on admissibility of evidence against Mike Haire

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen is now under investigation from the Vancouver Police Department following sexual misconduct allegations. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Vancouver police investigating sexual misconduct claims against Canucks’ Jake Virtanen

Abbotsford native remains on leave with the Vancouver Canucks following recent allegations

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Most Read