K-12 students in British Columbia will return to full-time, in-class learning this fall as the province moves to Stage 2 of its 5-part “Education Restart Plan.”
Starting on Sept. 8, staff and students must assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If any school-goer has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to return home.
BC to reopen schools full-time and in-person this fall
A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students (or “pupils”) under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools. The names for these schools vary by country (discussed in the Regional section below) but generally include primary school for young children and secondary school for teenagers who have completed primary education. An institution where higher education is taught, is commonly called a university college or university, but these higher education institutions are usually not compulsory.
In addition to these core schools, students in a given country may also attend schools before and after primary (Elementary in the US) and secondary (Middle school in the US) education. Kindergarten or preschool provide some schooling to very young children (typically ages 3–5). University, vocational school, college or seminary may be available after secondary school. A school may be dedicated to one particular field, such as a school of economics or a school of dance. Alternative schools may provide nontraditional curriculum and methods.
Non-government schools, also known as private schools may be required when the government does not supply adequate, or specific educational needs. Other private schools can also be religious, such as Christian schools, Gurukula,Hindu School, madrasa, hawzas (Shi’a schools), yeshivas (Jewish schools), and others; or schools that have a higher standard of education or seek to foster other personal achievements. Schools for adults include institutions of corporate training, military education and training and business schools.
In home schooling and online schools, teaching and learning take place outside a traditional school building. Schools are commonly organized in several different organizational models, including departmental, small learning communities, academies, integrated, and schools-within-a-school.
“We know how important it is for children to be back in school – to both support their emotional and mental health and their ability to socialize and to learn,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer, in a government press release.
“Being back in school is also crucial to support many parents in being able to work, but we must do it safely,” she added.
BC to reopen schools full-time and in-person this fall
Per Henry, students will be organized into consistent learning groups, reducing contact between students and staff members, lessening the risk of transmission, and ensuring quicker contact tracing by health authorities.
No more than 60 people are allowed in learning groups in elementary and middle schools and no more than 120 people in secondary schools, the guidelines stipulated.
Learning groups are smallest in earlier education, because it is more challenging for younger students to maintain physical distance, the press release cited. Older students are better able to minimize physical contact, practice hand hygiene, and recognize if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
For mixing outside learning groups for electives, extracurricular activities, sports or social clubs, students will need to maintain physical distancing of two metres. Students will also have to sit alone or sit with family members on school buses.
Families will hear from their school district or independent school throughout the summer with final details submitted to the ministry posted online by Aug. 26 regarding learning groups, schedules, enrollment, and registration.
A one-time investment of $45.6 million, as part of the BC COVID-19 Action Plan, will go towards supporting school districts and independent schools for the start of the school year. The funding will be allocated to increase cleaning of high-contact surfaces, hand-hygiene stations, and masks upon request.
“The classroom is an essential part of a child’s social, academic and mental development, and that’s why we are working hard to ensure students can safely spend the next school year with their teachers and classmates,” stated Minister of Education Rob Fleming.
Fleming noted that BC was the only jurisdiction in Canada that returned students to the classroom province-wide before the end of previous school year. The June restart saw almost 200,000 students with most in the classroom part-time.
Following recently updated guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control, all boards of education and independent school authorities will be required to implement health and safety measures to curb COVID-19 transmission.
In response, BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring criticized the province’s announcement, claiming that the plan is “not ready” and “needs more work” as “too many unanswered questions remain at this time.”
Mooring praised the initiative but called the plan “a work in progress” as “there is a lot of room for improvement.”
“I am confident that with more authentic consultation and collaboration, we can get to a much better place,” she tweeted.
She expressed that she was concerned about bringing everyone back all at once on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend and that staff need more time to prepare for the new structures.