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No COVID-19 cases linked to B.C.’s school system two weeks after opening

No COVID-19 cases linked to B.C. schools since return to classroom
It's been two weeks since B.C. classrooms reopened for optional, part-time learning amid the pandemic and while there have been no COVID-19 cases linked to schools, teachers are preparing for bumps as planning begins for September.

B.C.’s top doctor says there have been no cases of COVID-19 connected to schools after the province opened classrooms for in-class instruction two weeks ago.

“We have had no cases associated with schools yet in the province. It could happen but so far everything has been very great that way,” provincial health officer Dr. Henry said on Monday.

“It is going well and we are learning some very important things that will help us prepare through the summer and into the fall. And that is a very important thing as well.”

Hybrid education system to become new normal in B.C.?
Hybrid education system to become new normal in B.C.?

The provincial government is planning on offering hybrid learning in the fall. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has submitted a plan to the province to deal with some of the issues that have come up for teachers.

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Sixteen people under the age of 19 have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 1, but none of those cases has been from the school system.

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Thirty-five per cent of students from kindergarten to Grade 5 have returned to voluntary, in-class instruction, according to the BCTF. Just 16 per cent of students from Grade 6 to 12 have returned to school.

BCTF President Teri Mooring says overall the return has been successful but there are still some issues in terms of accessing the education system.

“We know remote learning is really hard on parents of especially younger students,” Mooring said.

“It’s really time-intensive for families to support learning from home. I know there have been a lot of challenges with younger students. With older students there are different challenges. It is hard for them to feel connected. This is emergency learning and we are hoping to do better in September.”

B.C.’s students and teachers report on COVID-19 safety measures at schools
B.C.’s students and teachers report on COVID-19 safety measures at schools

Mooring says the union wants to work with the province to plan for the fall school year, and has produced a report based on “broad input from teachers.”

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Mooring says starting with a new group of students come the fall will add to the challenge of balancing virtual and in-class learning.

“What teachers are currently doing is really not sustainable,” Mooring said.

“Teachers are kind of hanging on by a thread now until the end of June. In September it will no longer be an emergency and hopefully it will be better but we need more planning.”

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

Henry says the “measured way” that schools have reopened “has made it easier for everybody to learn how to adapt.”

The province acknowledges some things in the system were not workable and improvements are needed.

“I am extremely proud of all the educators and staff in the school system,” Dr. Henry said.

“There are children who absolutely needed to be back in that classroom learning environment, this has been incredibly important for them. So that is where we are with the schools right now. I think it is going as well as can be expected.”