After two months of online learning, B.C. parents are being offered the option of returning children to K-12 classrooms starting June 1 with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Premier John Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming announced the expansion of in-class education May 15, emphasizing that it is voluntary. Schools are already holding live teaching for children of essential workers, and expanding that will allow the province to “test and gauge as we go,” Horgan said.
The plan is to return to part-time in-class instruction for kindergarten to grade five (such as alternating days), and one day a week for grades six to 12. Fleming said existing class groups will be kept together as far as possible, with a combination of online and in-person instruction.
Fleming outlined the safety measures, including control of hallway traffic and congregating of students, and sanitizing doorknobs, washrooms and desks twice a day. The target for the spring phase is up to 20 per cent of the students back in school.
“It’s going to be very strict, and it needs to be,” Fleming said.
The plan includes staggered drop-offs, lunch and recess with increased time spent outside. School buses will be restricted to one student per seat, with barriers around drivers similar to transit buses.
School administrators are expected to contact families to arrange the return to school. The ministry says if parents haven’t heard from their school by May 22, they should contact the principal.
The education ministry reports that about 5,000 students are already going to school since B.C.’s pandemic restrictions came into effect in mid-March.
More licensed daycares are also being encouraged to reopen as the province enters its second phase of its pandemic restrictions, with additional businesses expected to start up in late May and more people going to work. About 2,600 daycares have received emergency provincial funding to help them stay open with reduced attendance by children of essential workers, and 1,400 others have had assistance for their fixed costs.
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