B.C. schools will open on an optional, part-time basis on June 1
Premier John Horgan says the decision has been made with science in mind, and will ensure the safety of teachers, staff and students.
“We would not be making these announcements if we thought there was an undue risk,” he said Friday.
“British Columbians have worked hard to flatten our curve. As we move into the next phase of our pandemic plan after the May long weekend, the science shows us that we’re ready to bring students back to school safely on a gradual and part-time basis.”
WATCH: B.C. education minister announces back to school plan for June
The goal is to return to full-time classes in September.
The province says it will be up to parents to decide whether to send their kids back to school. Families that decide not to send their children to class may continue learning from home.
Teachers will be required back in the classroom unless they are sick or have a pre-existing health condition or are living with someone with a health condition.
It is still unclear whether teachers will be required to conduct virtual and in-class learning at the same time. The districts will be working with teachers to resolve the situation.
Horgan says he understands parents and teachers are anxious about a return to school.
“This will be welcome news for many families who have struggled to adjust to remote and online learning, and for parents who are going back to work,” Horgan said.
“At every step, we will move slowly and make health and safety our top priority. B.C. has done well under the guidance of our provincial health officials, and now is the time to take this next step together.”
The number of students in school each day will be reduced.
School districts will determine scheduling for classes and transportation arrangements. The province will be providing funding for Plexiglas shields to protect bus drivers.
For kindergarten to Grade 5, most students will go to school on alternating days, either on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Grades 6 to 12 will go to school about one day a week.
“This will not be back to life at school before the pandemic. Schools will look substantially different,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said.
“School is the place where kids learn how to connect with others and grow together, and it’s incredibly important for students who need extra support to get more time with their teachers and support workers.”
Children of essential service workers and students needing additional supports will have the option to attend school full time.
All school boards and independent school authorities will be required to implements a number of health and safety measures:
– Desks spaced apart and avoiding groups or gatherings of students in hallways or other common areas
– Regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces like doorknobs, toilet seats, keyboards and desks at least twice a day
– Cleaning the school building at least once a day
– Students, educators and staff will be required to clean their hands before entering school property
– Staggered drop-offs, lunch and recess breaks, with increased outside time
– Staff and students (or their parents/guardians) must assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19.
– One student per seat on school buses, unless children are from the same house
– Students or employees should not share food or personal items like phones, pens or pencils.
If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to return home.