August 21, 2020

Dear First Nations Leadership, FNESC Board Members, and Education Coordinators,

The BC Ministry of Education recently released its COVID-19 Operational Guidelines for School Districts and Independent School Authorities, which includes direction to public school districts and non-First Nation independent school authorities regarding the development of plans to deliver educational opportunities and supports in the context of COVID-19.

The Operational Guidelines provide explicit instructions regarding supports for Indigenous students and engagement with BC First Nations on planning for September. A selection of these expectations are provided below and a full PDF version of the Operational Guidelines can be accessed at the Ministry website. You may wish to bring these Guidelines forward in your discussions with your respective school districts.

Key provisions in the Operational Guidelines include:

  • School districts and independent school authorities are expected to continue to support equitable outcomes and opportunities for all Indigenous learners by maintaining Indigenous student supports and collaboration with Indigenous rightsholders and education partners. School districts and independent school authorities are expected to collaborate with local First Nations and Indigenous communities on any changes/updates to the delivery of any programs including Indigenous language and culture services.
  • School districts are expected to collaborate with local Indigenous people in order to identify appropriate programs and services to be delivered through the use of targeted funds. This can be through an Indigenous Education Council or other mechanism for direct engagement with First Nations, MĂ©tis and Inuit families and communities.
  • School districts and independent school authorities should engage Indigenous communities and parents/caregivers to ensure there is no disruption to the educational path of students on track to graduate.
  • Boards of education are also expected to engage with First Nations to identify the transportation needs of First Nation students living on reserve and opting to attend in-person classes as schools gradually increase in-class instruction. Collaboration between boards and First Nations is necessary to ensure there are equitable and safe transportation opportunities as we transition back to in-class instruction.
  • Boards are also asked to refrain from seeking tuition payment from First Nations with a Local Education Agreement (LEA) until there is engagement on, or clarity about, continued learning opportunities.
  • During stages 1-2 of the Restart Plan (note that we are currently in Stage 2):
    • School districts and independent school authorities should identify Indigenous students whose educational outcomes may have been negatively impacted during periods of limited or suspended in-class instruction and make accommodations to ensure these students are supported. The needs of Indigenous students who require additional supports should be planned for and prioritized in partnership with parents/caregivers and communities.

Additional considerations for school districts/authorities include the expectations that there is:

  • Collaboration between teachers and Indigenous support staff on the development of Indigenous students’ learning plans, including ensuring the integration of language and culture into these plans.
  • Collaboration between district/authority leadership, school administrators, teachers and Indigenous support staff to engage parents and communities and identify the specific needs of each student and family, including technology, connectivity, and/or transportation needs.

Further information and updates related to September start-up can be found at www.fnsa.ca/covid19.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.