After hinting at the possibility on Tuesday, the BC government said on Wednesday that the start of the school year for students will be delayed by two days – from September 8 to September 10.
The decision is meant to ensure “schools are ready to welcome students into classrooms,” and the “gradual restart” is meant to give “extra time to orient students and staff on the new health and safety measures” in place, the province said.
“Schools are going to look different in September,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “Staff, students and parents need time to get familiar with all the new health and safety procedures that are designed to keep them safe and confident in their school settings.”
According to the province, all staff members will meet with their school’s joint health and safety committee starting on September 8, to “receive instructions about how the updated guidelines, co-developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer, will operate in their school.”
Time will also be allowed “for educators and staff to adjust to their new routines, finalize plans for learning groups, review health and safety protocols, and confirm lesson plans that align with the new normal in schools,” the province said.
Students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by September 10, and will be “assigned to their class, find out who is in their learning group, practise their new routines, and familiarize themselves with how to safely move from the class to outdoor and common areas of the school.”
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As part of the fall return, the province said plans to implement cohorts (learning groups) to reduce the number of close, in-person interactions. These groups of students and staff will remain together throughout the school year and who primarily interact with each other.
Cohorts will be no more than 60 people in elementary and middle school and no more than 120 people in secondary school.
The province noted it won’t be necessary for students in a learning group to all be in the same class, “but they will be able to interact and connect with each other as a consistent group during breaks, in common areas like the gym, library, or at the playground.”
In addition, staff and students (or their parents/guardians) must also assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to return home.