B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are expected to announce a full return to school for students from kindergarten to Grade 7 in September, under the COVID-19 crisis.
B.C. teachers still concerned about back to school
Students from Grade 8 to Grade 12 will spend the majority of their time in class but there will be elements of virtual learning as well.
“Dr. Henry will give a science, evidence-based approach into what lies underneath the development of the health and safety protocols. We certainly want to give certainty to teachers, parents, support staff about the plan going forward,” Fleming said.
The B.C. government will be updating its K-12 Education Restart Plan, which outlines the health and safety measures in schools and the expectations parents should have around scheduling.
The school districts are responsible for working within the province’s plans and will be providing additional details to students. Some high schools are looking at a quadrant system, where students will take two longer classes a semester and switch every 10 weeks.
The province moved to Stage 3 of its education restart plan on June 1, which consisted of a partial, voluntary return to class, and an emphasis on virtual learning for all students.
British Columbia was the only jurisdiction in North America to open all schools back up. Henry has only publicly linked two cases of COVID-19, both teachers, to the June return to school. There has been no public acknowledgment of any spread of COVID-19 through the school system.
The province will have the flexibility to change the back-to-school plan up until the beginning of school on Sept. 8 or while school is back.
“Under pandemic the uncertain nature of how this virus will progress is unknown,” Fleming said.
“What we have to be prepared for is not just September, but if there is a second wave or if there are regional outbreaks just as we plan to move forward in terms of a return to in-class instructions, we have to be prepared to nimbly move back.”
B.C. government planning for full return to school in September
Parents will receive updates from their local school district and school.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has been involved in the province’s task force to determine what a return to school will look like.
A survey of B.C. teachers following the June restart found one-third of teachers were “unsure” about a return to the classroom in the fall.
“I think teachers are really concerned about a return to school in September. That is not a surprise. We are in a pandemic,” BCTF president Teri Mooring said.
“Teachers need to be assured that all health and safety measures will be put in place so they are safe. We are really looking for an announcement that will add funding to school so teachers can properly teach vulnerable students. The true access to education has been a big issue.”
B.C. teachers unsure about return to classroom in September
The province’s task force also included parents, support staff, health officials and other stakeholders.
Fleming was asked Tuesday about how the province will address physical distancing concerns considering limited space in many B.C. schools and said the details will be part of Wednesday’s plan.
“We are very conscious that all British Columbians, no matter where they work, no matter the community they live in, have fear and anxiety when it comes to the uncertainty of this virus,” Fleming said.
“Schools are something Dr. Bonnie Henry has spent a lot of energy thinking about. It is a part of our society she cares deeply about.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.