The B.C. government announces the closures of all K-12 schools on Tuesday, March 17. (Jim Elliot - Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap superintendent calls B.C. school closures an ‘anxious time for everybody’

Districts wait to hear ministry expectations for education

On March 17, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the closing of all British Columbia K-12 schools indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the announcement on Tuesday, Peter Jory, superintendent of schools for School District #83, said he does not expect layoffs for full-time employees but worries for teachers on call. He also realizes parents may be left scrambling for daycare services.

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“I think it’s a very sad and anxious time for everybody,” Jory said. “I’m worried about parents who are going to have to stay home and all those types of difficulties that people are going to encounter in our jurisdiction.”

School District #83 and districts across the province were updated regarding the Ministry of Education’s expectations in conferences on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

Speaking to what education would look like during the closures, Jory said he could see online classes for some grades could be offered.

Read more: Trudeau unveils emergency fund to help Canadians stuck abroad due to COVID-19

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“We do have a capacity to deliver certain types of learning electronically on a fairly significant scale but we want to know more about what the ministry’s expectations would be,” he said.

During the Tuesday announcement, Education Minister Rob Fleming said all students who are currently on track to move onto the next grade, or to graduate, will do so. Arrangements will also be made to help provide school meals for at-risk students.

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 to 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.

Read more: Three more COVID-19 deaths at B.C. care home, as number of cases grows to 103

Read more: Canada to close borders to most foreigners, but not to U.S., to slow spread of COVID-19

Fleming went on to say some schools will remain open so children of essential workers can still receive care. He said the province was gathering information about how many of the province’s students would qualify.

B.C.’s total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 186 Tuesday, as 83 cases were added to the public health database and three more people were reported to have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to four.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday she has declared a public health emergency as a result of the rising number of cases.

In a press conference on Monday, March 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to “stay home” if at all possible.

Also on Monday, the province announced a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people, causing thousands of events to be cancelled and many small businesses to suspend operations.

– With files from Katya Slepian and Tom Fletcher, Black Press Media


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