Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send students back to school in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (The Canadian Press)

Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send students back to school in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (The Canadian Press)

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Dr. Bonnie Henry has promised to parents that physical distancing is a priority as kids return to the classroom in September, and that she is confident in B.C.’s school restart plan.

Following last week’s announced plan to have students of all ages returning back to school on Sept. 8, following the Labour Day long weekend, both teachers and some parents have voiced concern.

An online petition started by parents, which had garnered nearly 21,000 signatures as of noon on Wednesday (Aug. 5), has called for the B.C. government to allow the plan to be voluntary for students.

“The government is pressuring our kids to go back to school even though it is still unsafe as COVID-19 cases are increasing consistently on a daily basis, and yet they just keep repeating that ‘this is a robust plan’, in hope for our buy-in,” the petition reads.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Teachers Federation was quick to call for a delay to the start of classes citing a need for more time so teachers can plan, as well as transmission risks.

On Tuesday, during a news conference, Henry reiterated that the plan for students is breaking new ground amid an unprecedented pandemic but that the framework is backed by collaboration with school officials and parent groups with safety top of mind.

“I think this speaks to people’s anxieties – and we all have anxieties,” the provincial health officer said.

“We are learning as we go with this virus, but we also know that there are important things children can only get from being in classroom settings.”

ALSO READ: The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Part of the plan includes that students will be organized into “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission. The groups will be up to 60 students within younger grades and 120 for high school. Some middle and high school students will see some changes to their daily schedules.

Staff and students will also be required to assess themselves daily for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, they will be told to stay home.

Henry told reporters that students will be prevented from “mixing and mingling” and desks will be organized to maintain physical distancing.

Earlier this week, Alberta and Ontario officials announced masks will be mandatory in schools – a decision Henry said she has no intention of making in this province.

ALSO READ: Premier wants parents to have Plan B if COVID-19 disrupts September school plans

Amid the uncertainty, Henry reiterated that students being able to socialize safely with friends and experience some normalcy in the fall is integral for their mental well-being and education.

“We need to be able to give children the instructions, the class, the type of teaching that they need in those settings, as well,” she said.

“It is finding that balance of making sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce that risk – knowing that this virus is going to be with us and we need to find a way to live with it – and still have those absolutely critical learning opportunities for children.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The South Poplar one-room schoolhouse in Abbotsford is among three local heritage buildings that will benefit from provincial funding announced this week. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford heritage buildings, including one-room schoolhouse, get $162K in funding

Upper Sumas train station and 145-year-old Turner House also included

The Fraser Valley Bandits 2021 regular season schedule has been released. (File photo)
Fraser Valley Bandits release 2021 regular season schedule

Professional basketball team hopes to have fans inside Abbotsford Centre in 2021

Snowfall warnings Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 for parts of the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon. (Jennifer Feinberg/The Chilliwack Progress)
Winter storm warnings Thursday for Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon

Snow is expected to become heavier as day progresses with snowfall amounts of up to 30 centimetres

A team with Ann Davis Transition Society takes part in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser as they walk along Young Road on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
‘Coldest Night’ walk raises nearly $60,000 for new outreach office in Chilliwack

Ann Davis Transition Society thrift shop will be transformed into much needed outreach centre

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Police stopped car riddled with bullets in Whalley Monday night. (Photo: CFSEU)
Police seize two pounds of pot, $25K from Surrey car riddled with bullet holes

This was in the neighbourhood of 104th Avenue and Whalley Boulevard on Monday night

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

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 boards a transit bus through rear doors, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
TransLink slow to reveal crucial details about ransomware attack, says union

Union says company took months to admit what info was stolen, including SIN and bank account details

Most Read