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

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Nine exhibits representing the commercial core of downtown Salmon Arm in 1910 are pictured here at R.J. Haney’s Heritage Village & Museum. (Facebook - R.J. Haney’s Heritage Village & Museum)
‘The Shuswap’s largest heritage site,’ R.J. Haney’s Village and Museum, opens to public

Haney’s restaurant, Sprig of Heather, and Children’s Discovery Centre are open as well

Graduating Grade 12 student Savannah Lamb has been awarded an approximate $40,000 scholarship from the Beedie Luminaries foundation. (Contributed)
Dedicated Salmon Arm student earns scholarship to pursue post-secondary education

Savannah Lamb is graduating from Salmon Arm Secondary with a $40,000 scholarship

Teslyn Bates, a Grade 11 student at Salmon Arm Secondary, was among four musicians from the Shuswap who won awards at the 2021 Virtual Performing Arts BC Festival held June 1-5. (Contributed)
Province takes note of young Shuswap musicians at June festival

Four local contestants receive awards at 2021 Virtual Performing Arts BC Festival

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans to hold a vigil on Friday, June 25 at 8 p.m. to honour the victims of what officials are calling a terrorist attack on five Muslims in London, Ont. (File photo)
Salmon Arm council holds minute of silence to honour victims of Ontario attack

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans vigil for Muslim family on June 25, 8 p.m. at McGuire Lake

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Vernon-Monashee NDP MLA Harwinder Sandhu supported a motion in the B.C. legislature for Canada to create a national Indigenous History month Monday, June 13, 2021. (Contributed)
Canada needs a national Indigenous History Month, Vernon MLA agrees

Harwinder Sandhu supports motion to recognize June as month to advance reconciliation efforts with First Nations

(Facebook)
New trial date set for Penticton beach attacker’s triple assault charges

May trial was delayed after Crown witnesses failed to show up

Orange ribbons are tied to the fence outside Vernon’s Gateway Homeless Shelter on 33rd Street. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
POLL: Low-key Canada Day in the works for Vernon

Councillor calling for Indigenous recognition for 2022

A conceptual design of Vernon’s new Active Living Centre, which will go to referendum Oct. 15, 2022. (Rendering)
Active living centre 2022 referendum planned in Vernon

City hoping to get Coldstream and Areas B and C back on board

Closure of the 2900 block of 30th Avenue will allow restaurants and other businesses to extend their patios onto the street. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Green light given to downtown Vernon road closure

Single block of 30th Avenue to close over summer months to boost business

A provided photo of the suspect. (Kelowna RCMP/Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP investigating after business robbed

An undisclosed amount of money and merchandise were taken from the business

Travel Penticton went to city council for support in increasing the tax on short-term stays to fund a convention bureau and affordable housing. (File photo)
Travel Penticton seeks to grow through increased hotel tax

The increased funds would go to creating a convention bureau and to affordable housing

Most Read