Some children will start to return to classrooms on a part-time, voluntary basis beginning June 1, says Premier John Horgan.
The gradual reopening will apply to all students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Schools will have to abide by rigorous cleaning procedures and follow provincial health guidelines, he said.
Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming announced the expansion of in-class education on Friday.
The plan is to return to part-time in-class instruction for kindergarten to Grade 5, and one day a week for grades 6 to 12.
Fleming said existing class groups will be kept together as far as possible, with a combination of online and in-person instruction.
New safety measures include control of hallway traffic and congregating of students, and sanitizing doorknobs, washrooms and desks twice a day.
The target for the spring phase is up to 20 per cent of the students back in school, Fleming said.
B.C. schools were closed to in-class learning March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are 5,000 students still in physical classrooms, including the children of essential workers and students who need extra support.
Sooke School District chair Ravi Parmar says he’s interested to see what things will look like for schools and students moving forward.
Sooke school trustees met with local mayors last week to provide an update on the current plans, work being done, and what communities can expect over the next couple of weeks.
Parmar said more conversations need to be held on how exactly the Sooke School District will conduct things safely for staff and students.
“The board will present a plan [this] week to make sure we meet the province-wide guidelines, and then set it in place,” Parmar said.
The return to class will be on a voluntary basis, so families who feel comfortable to have their child return can do so, and if not, the students can continue to have the option of distance learning.
Parmar said many students have been thriving from learning at home, while others are finding the experience more challenging.
The pandemic catapulted education into a state of radical change, but opened the door for conversation on new ways of how education can be provided in B.C.
“Some students love the idea of logging in at home and doing their assignments, feeling more accomplished than going to in-person class. But others are social butterflies who miss that connection and are struggling,” Parmar said.
“There are two ends of the spectrum that need to be considered. I’m looking forward to further discussions on what’s to come, working with staff and having parents and students engaged throughout the process.”
– with files from Tom Fletcher