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Coronavirus: 35% of K-to-Grade-5 students return to B.C. schools

B.C.’s students and teachers report on COVID-19 safety measures at schools
After more than two months out of class due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of B.C. students and teachers went back to school. Richard Zussman has reviews of what kind of safety measures they found.

British Columbia resumed optional, part-time learning on Monday, with classes split to ensure social distancing in the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The return varies from district to district, with some districts as low as 20 per cent and other districts seeing returns greater than 60 per cent. On average, the province says 35 per cent of students between kindergarten and Grade 5 have indicated they will be returning.

“That is based on what we estimate on the staggered schedule,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said.

“Some parents were showing up with their kids who indicated they wouldn’t be returning. Very curious. We will keep our eye on this.”

B.C. premier reassures parents about return to school
B.C. premier reassures parents about return to school

The province does not have an exact number for returning students in grades 6 to 12, but says it is lower than 35 per cent.

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Schools were included as part of Phase 2  of the province’s reopening plan. The expectation is more kids could come back into the system before the end of the school year.

Elementary school students are scheduled to be in class two days a week, with middle and high school students in class just one day a week.

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

The province has told parents they can send their children back to school at anytime before the end of the school year following a conversation around capacity with the school. Parents can also decide to remove a child from in-class learning.

“Parents talk to other parents, so those who may not have been back on day one may change their minds and that is OK. They just have to work on that with the school principal and contact the teacher,” Fleming said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, that is exactly what we saw in New Zealand and Denmark.”

The B.C. Teachers Federation says they have not heard any major concerns from teachers following the first day of school. But the union is still concerned about the workload for teachers.

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

“In many areas there are fewer than expected students that have arrived at school, which is to be expected on day one.  And it could mean that more students come later in the week,” BCTF president Teri Mooring said.

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“It is really important teachers not take on additional work, which means some of the students that are continuing to learn remotely may see their time with teachers reduced.”