As COVID-19 cases surge across the province, the B.C. government has delayed the start of the school year for most students.
Children with special needs and children of health care workers will return on Jan. 3 or 4 as planned, but everyone else will go back on Jan. 10 — one week later than initially scheduled.
Teachers and school staff will be expected back in the classroom next week.
The delay will give the province time to better assess the impacts of the Omicron variant, and develop enhanced safety measures for a return to classrooms.
“As we know the pandemic is changing but the education system is nimble and strong. Our efforts are truly focused on minimizing disruption and absenteeism,” said B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside in a Wednesday briefing.
“Taking a few extra days now we are setting our schools up for the best possible start.”
The measures will include staggered starts and other tools to allow for more effective contact tracing.
School staff will be required to host staff meetings virtually, and in-person assemblies and extra-curricular sports tournaments are on hold.
The province will not be offering virtual options for most students as the plan is to finish the school year with in-person learning.
The union representing roughly 46,000 teachers in B.C. called on the province to delay the return and give priority access to booster shots to all school staff.
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring told Global News she asked the government to move classes online until at least Jan. 10 in order to assess the impact of the Omicron variant on staff and students.