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. 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

Just Posted

The orange parcel was bought by the CRD for $1.1 million to add to Mount Work Regional Park. (CRD map)
Capital Regional District expands Mount Work land for $1.1 million

Privately-owned 13.8 hectares in the Highlands is ecologcically valuable

North Saanich has received a report from the Urban Development Institute calling on the municipality to expand and densify its housing options in the face of demographic and environmental changes as the municipality continues its Official Community Plan review. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich asked to create more affordable, diverse housing

Urban Development Institute says community faces demographic, environmental challenges

Dog trainer Sharon Labossiere at play with her dogs. AnimalKind, the BC SPCA’s animal welfare accreditation and referral program, has granted accreditation to Sooke's Hanging with Hounds. (Contributed - BC SPCA)
Hanging With Hounds digs its paws into AnimalKind accreditation

Local dog trainer earns special BC SPCA status

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Royal Bay pride crosswalk restored following graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Colwood high school

Protesters seen here rallying against the injunction order on April 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek blockade

Protesters can remain but police will ensure open access for loggers

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. A motorcyclist was airlifted to hospital by BC Air Ambulance and later died. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in Mid-Island highway collision

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Most Read