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Here’s how B.C. plans to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Return to school for B.C. students on voluntary basis
B.C. students will be heading back to the classroom later this spring, but only on a voluntary basis, and under new classroom operations. Richard Zussman has the details.

Parents and students are anxiously waiting for the news on how schools, from kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary, will begin to open again amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The B.C. government has now outlined plans on how to do this safely, providing the virus transmission rate remains low or is in decline.

What does ‘voluntary’ return to B.C. school mean during COVID-19 restart plan?
What does ‘voluntary’ return to B.C. school mean during COVID-19 restart plan?

Students in K to 12 education will be returning to school in September, with only a partial return this school year.

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Students in post-secondary education will be returning to school in September with a mix of online and in-class learning.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Small gatherings, elective surgeries to be allowed in B.C. mid-May

On Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said classes will fully resume in September.

“We want to make sure we can get kids safely back into classrooms,” Horgan said. “It’s not just about reading, writing and arithmetic.

“We don’t want anyone to feel they are obliged [to go back],” he continued. “We’ve seen virtual learning take place over the past few numbers of weeks, positive outcomes there but it’s not perfect. We want to make sure we can do a dry run between [the beginning of June to the end of June].”

Horgan said the province is not anticipating any increase to in-class teaching until after the May long weekend.

“[Education] Minister{Rob] Flemming and I will be working to make sure students whose families need to have kids in class will have that opportunity. And we will continue to prepare for the full resumption of classes in September.”
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More details are expected to come on schools reopening sometime next week or after the long weekend.

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WATCH:  BCTF President Teri Mooring on what a return to school might look like and the challenges facing teachers.

BCTF on the plan to reopen B.C. schools
BCTF on the plan to reopen B.C. schools

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Guidelines for schools from K to 12 will now include routine daily screening for all staff and students.

There will have to be routine and frequent environmental cleaning within all schools.

Smaller class sizes will be required with increased space between desks, alternating attendance arrangements, frequent hand washing, wearing non-medical masks for group activities and sports and limiting group sizes.

READ MORE: Number of new COVID-19 cases should hit zero by mid-June if we remain at home: B.C. officials

Children and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing present, will not be allowed to come to school or take part in extra-curricular activities or sports.

Plans will be made over the summer for increased use of remote online learning, especially for high school children.

There will also be a policy of early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days for all international students.

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In a tweet from the BC Teachers’ Federation following the announcement, the organization said the key takeaways include the fact there is no date for major reopening, and it won’t be this spring. There will be a slow, voluntary expansion and details are still being worked out.

The union is encouraging patience and maintain safety is a top priority.

For those in post-secondary institutions, there will also be routine daily screening for all staff and students, according to the province’s guidelines.

There will have to be routine and frequent environmental cleaning.

Students and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing present, will not be allowed to attend classes, extracurricular activities, sports or work.

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There will need to be an increased use of online learning, balanced against the need of social interaction.

There will also be a policy of early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days for all international students.

COVID-19 vaccine questions for back to school
COVID-19 vaccine questions for back to school