A growing number of B.C. parents are voicing their frustration with the province’s return to school plan.
A change.org petition calling on the government to keep the fall return to the classroom optional has garnered more than 1,500 online signatures as of Monday morning.
“In-class instructions should remain voluntary until there are clear evidence-based plans, guidelines, measures, enforcement and infrastructure in place for our schools to ensure that all people involved – our kids, the staff, and their families – can be safe,” the petition reads.
“It is irresponsible to assume that students and school staff won’t further infect others and bring the virus home; UNTIL THAT HAPPENS, the return to schools should NOT be mandatory.”
There have been mixed signals from the B.C. government on what options will be available to students who do not attend school in the fall.
The province insists school has never been mandatory and parents have options on how to educate their children.
But Education Minister Rob Fleming says a vast majority of B.C. students will not be able to access virtual learning in the public K-to-12 system this fall even though provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated they are still working on some at-home learning opportunities.
“There are options. We are not saying that every child has to be in there. That is not what the plan says. The plan says the aim is to support every child in a classroom setting as much as we can,” Henry said last week.
“We know that there will be hybrid situations needed in some situations, and we know that there is access to online and other forms of education.”
Students returned to the classroom in June on a part-time, voluntary basis.
The government last week announced a full return for almost all students in the education system. Some students at the province’s largest high schools may need to learn virtually come September due to spacing issues at the school.
On the advice of the provincial health officer, students will be organized into consistent groups of staff and students — to be called learning groups — in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus and ensure quicker contact tracing if needed. Learning groups in middle and elementary schools will consist of up to 60 people and up to 120 people in high schools.
A few recent events have parents in British Columbia worried about the new model.
A recent outbreak at a youth camp in Georgia shows some evidence that children of all ages are susceptible to COVID-19. A new study out of South Korea shows that kids nine years old and younger were less likely to transmit the virus within households than older children, but were similar to adults aged 20 to 39.
“This plan is contrary to the recommendation of ‘fewer faces, bigger spaces’,” the petition reads.
“It is irresponsible to require students to return to class at full capacity in September 2020, despite acknowledging that social distancing is not possible. This ‘Plan’ to try and forcefully put our kids back to school on a mandatory basis is extremely irresponsible.”
Masks will be available for teachers to use in schools but they will not be mandatory. Due to physical limitations in the classroom, social distancing will be impossible in many cases.
Bernard Trest, creator of a Facebook page called Dangerous BC Back to School Covid-19 Plan , is encouraging parents who do not feel safe with the province’s back-to-school “’plan’, or lack thereof” to protest by not bringing their kids to school in September.
“I am also asking that all teachers who do not feel safe returning to school to not show up in September. Maybe this is something you can work on with the BCTF, a mass walkout in protest? If very few kids and teachers show up in September, our voices, which make up a majority of parents, will finally be heard,” Trest writes on the Facebook page.
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