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B.C. considers alternating days for students once they return to class

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With the government now saying some B.C. students might return to class in May, Richard Zussman examines what the last part of the school year might look like – Apr 20, 2020

British Columbia’s top doctor says the province is considering a return to school that would see students attend class on alternate days or attend for only part of the day.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province is trying to be creative about a potential return to the classroom and is working closely with stakeholders in the education sector.

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“Some older children, for example, may not go back to school. They might continue virtual classrooms,” Dr. Henry said.

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“But we do need, for younger children, some way for them to be safe during the day so that parents can go back to work. But it may be some hybrid, as well, where some children are in classes certain days, and others are in other days, so that we’re able to maintain some physical distancing and safe ways of doing this.”

READ MORE: What will Canadian schools look like after COVID-19? Here’s what could change

Premier John Horgan says even if there is a plan to get kids back in the classroom in May, June or even September, there still will be students who continue learning outside of a classroom setting.

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“Virtual learning is here to stay, but it’s not going to be the only way we learn,” Horgan said.

“But these technologies, whether they be applied to rural and remote and Indigenous community health delivery, or they’re applied to education, whether it be K-to-12 or post-secondary, I believe that the technology has now arrived. We’re embracing that technology, and we will all be better for it.”

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One of the obvious challenges to the province considering students only attend school in the morning or afternoon, or alternate dates is how parents will care for kids. Dr. Henry suggests this could mean ‘parents may go back to work on a reduced schedule or a changed schedule’ that supports their ability to look after their kids.

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B.C. health officials are keeping a close eye on what other countries are doing around child care and schooling.

READ MORE: B.C. parents face double-whammy of working from home, educating kids. Here are tips to cope

“We want to see which ones work for the educators, for our teachers, early childhood educators, the educational assistants, as well as for families and for children,” Henry said.

“So expect to see, in the coming months, some time in May, different ways of doing these. And we’re having those conversations with the school districts, with the child care programs, and public health, and the superintendents, the ministries, about trying to find these innovative ways that we can safely care for children, safely get people going again in our communities, and learn from it as we go.”

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As for graduation ceremonies, Henry ruled out any large celebrations of more than 50 people.

“It’s not going to be a big party where everybody gets together because that’s too risky. It means that you might spread this. And if you have all of those contacts, they’re going to bring it home to their families and their loved ones,” Dr. Henry said.

“We need to look at how we do it in a much smaller scale, with those who are close to us, and bring people in remotely to celebrate with us.”

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