British Columbia is suspending K-12 classes indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier John Horgan said Tuesday.
The news comes as the province has seven deaths and at least 185 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Gatherings of 50 or more people have been banned and health officials are telling people to stay in Canada. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to “stay home” if at all possible. The province declared a public health emergency just hours after announcing the suspension of classes.
“This is a crisis situation, there’s no making that sound any better,” Horgan said. He said a decision on when classes return will be made in the future.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said all students who are currently on track to move onto the next grade, or to graduate, will do so and the province is working with post-secondary institutions.
Arrangements will also be made to help provide school meals for at-risk students, he noted.
Although the vast majority of students are on spring break currently, Fleming said students who are still in class – Nechako Lakes students and some independent schools – will be told close immediately.
“We’ve urged schools and school districts to begin planning now to ensure a continuity of learning while in-class instruction is suspended in B.C. schools indefinitely,” Fleming said.
Horgan said childcare will remain available but did not provide details.
“Schools are not boarded up,” he said, and can be used for something other than K-12 instruction.
Some schools will remain open so kids of essential workers can still receive care, Fleming said. He said the province was gathering information about how many of the province’s students would qualify.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation said this was “the right decision” to protect teacher, staff and students.