The B.C. government has approved plans for all 60 school districts to welcome students back in September, with full in-person instruction for elementary and middle schools, and secondary schools where the ministry says the “vast majority” of students will attend every day.
Learning groups of up to 60 students are to stay together in the younger grades, with masks required for hallways, buses and other common areas of schools. Most secondary schools will use a quarter system rather than semesters. There will be four quarters with two courses each in the secondary year, to reduce the size of learning groups, and teachers may go from class to class rather than students.
The individual district plans are to be released Aug. 26, as school principals begin contacting families to share their local plans and confirm attendance. Sept. 8 and 9 are for staff orientation with students attending starting Sept. 10.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said he expects all school administrations to be flexible, and find out from parents if their children will be attending school or if they need a remote option.
Fleming released some details for Surrey, Saanich and Sea to Sky school districts as examples of the adaptations. For Surrey, B.C.’s largest district, classes from grade eight up begin at 8:30 a.m. In grade 10 and up, in-person instruction is offered in the morning with some online classes in the afternoon. In Saanich, middle schools are adopting an elementary school model where home room teachers present most of the curriculum. Sea to Sky, with a smaller student population, is offering full-time classroom for all grades including secondary.
School districts are staggering lunch and recess breaks to reduce student contact outside of learning groups, and high-touch areas of schools are to be cleaned twice a day.
The province has assembled two masks for each student and staff member in the province, but consistent with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approach, masks are the last resort for infection control. Students don’t need to maintain two-metre physical distance within learning groups, but outside that, distance is the next strategy. Only when distance is not possible are masks to be used.
Fleming said federal funding announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday amounts to $242 million for B.C., to enhance existing efforts with additional ventilation, masks, barriers and additional custodians for cleaning schools and buses.