B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming looks at a water fountain not in use as Jacob Cunliffe, 13, left, and his brother Joshua take a tour at Monterey Middle School with the minister following an update on part-time return to classes at in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

Much of the plan around returning to school will be up to individual school districts

The B.C. government is aiming for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 to be back to school full-time in September – but parts of the classroom will likely look much different as part of the “new normal.”

On Wednesday (July 29), Education Minister Rob Fleming and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry unveiled the province’s education plan amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with Sept. 8 as the return-to-school date for the 2020-21 school year.

Students will be organized into “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Students will be assigned to groups of up to 60 for younger grades and 120 for high school, and does mean that some middle and high school students will see some changes to their daily schedules.

Staff and students will also be required to assess themselves daily for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, they will be told to stay home.

The province will also be giving $45.6 million in funding to schools to ensure adequate and regular cleaning of high-contact services, as well as increasing the number of available hand-hygiene stations and optional masks.

Most of the other details will be left up to individual school districts, with the province providing general operational guidelines.

Schools in B.C. shuttered doors in March as daily case counts began to increase, requiring parents to home-school their kids. Many struggled to balance working from home with helping their children finish the school year.

ALSO READ: The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Meanwhile, teachers had to quickly adapt lesson plans to rely on online assignments and virtual teaching.

The province moved to a hybrid model in June, blending voluntary in-classroom and online curriculum. Roughly 200,000 students attended in-person schooling.

Fleming told reporters that the plan follows ongoing planning with Henry and school trustees and administrators from across B.C., based on teacher and parent feedback.

“We were the only jurisdiction in Canada that brought students back into the classroom provincewide before the end of the school year and this has given us valuable information that we are using to develop our plans, ensuring health and safety at schools remain paramount,” Fleming said.

Families can expect to hear from their local school district or independent school in the coming weeks with specific plans for how learning groups will be scheduled, as well as updated health and safety guidelines.

Final details will have to be submitted to the ministry and posted online no later than Aug. 26.

B.C.’s top doctor said that she knows how important in-class schooling is for children’s mental health.

“We ask for families and workplaces to continue to be flexible as we come into the fall,” Henry said.

“We’ve put a lot of thoughtful work and consideration into reopening schools this fall and in making sure we re supporting children in ways that keep them, the people who teach them and our communities safe.”

In a statement, the B.C. Teachers Federation said the plan needs “more time and work” before rolling out – specifically through consultation with school districts and local unions.

“If the plan is rushed or too many questions are left unanswered, it won’t be successful,” it read in part. “Bringing everyone back all at once, even with some version of a cohort model on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend is too much

too soon, given the many unanswered questions in today’s announcement.”

Health officials and political leaders have acknowledged that a surge of coronavirus cases in the fall – dubbed the second wave – could possibly foil these plans.

Last week, Premier John Horgan told parents to start thinking about a Plan B but stopped short of offering any specifics.

ALSO READ: Premier wants parents to have Plan B if COVID-19 disrupts September school plans


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich offers free saplings to encourage residents to spruce up for National Tree Day

Giveaway to take place Sept. 21 in Glanford Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Victoria man plans 30-hour walk to raise funds for vulnerable youth

Take a Hike engages youth in intensive, clinical counselling and outdoor experiential learning

New urgent, primary care health centre opens in Saanich come November

North Quadra area facility to provide same-day, ongoing care for folks without family doctors

Metchosin inmate sentenced to 12 months in jail for escaping custody

Sentence to be served concurrent to a life sentence he was already serving

New branch of Royal BC Museum to be built in Colwood

New faclity in the Royal Bay development will house collections, archives and research department

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

Most Read