It’s “likely” elementary and high school students will have hybrid learning in September under the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C.’s education minister says.
Rob Fleming told a news conference on Tuesday that students will still be learning both online and in-person when the next school year begins.
“It is likely we are going to have to have a hybrid system until we have a vaccine and the pandemic is over in this part of the world,” Fleming said.
“We have to prepare for a second wave, move forward as we have this week, but plan to move backwards when we get into the fall and winter. It is very hard to tell.”
Previously, Premier John Horgan expressed optimism that schools would be back to normal in the fall, with the understanding all along that health officials would need to approve.
Around 60,000 students returned to in-class learning on Monday. The province is anticipating around 35 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 5 students in total will return this year.
But continued virtual learning could cause problems for parents looking to return to work and lacking alternatives.
“What we really need to do as a school system is really work hard over the summer with teachers who have flourished under the remote learning system with all the points of excellence, and try to generalize that and prepare a really robust hybrid learning model into the next school year,” Fleming said.
Around 90 per cent of teachers returned to school, he said, with the remaining 10 per cent receiving accommodations based on health conditions or living with someone with a health condition.
The voluntary return to in-class learning this week will allow the province to adapt procedures to improve the experience for students, the minister said.
Some kids have complained the social-distancing guidelines in the classroom make it less conducive to learning than if they were at home.
“I think June — a partial re-entry — sets us up really nicely for September. There will be a number of jurisdictions that have not done it before. We are fielding a lot of information requests from the departments of education in Oregon, Washington and California,” Fleming said.
“This is an opportunity for kids. We can’t force it on everyone. People are going to make the right decision based on their circumstances.