Students across British Columbia will be returning to classrooms on a part-time, optional basis starting today.
The announcement was first made in mid-May during a press conference with BC Premier John Horgan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Education Minister Rob Fleming.
Horgan has described the gradual return as a “dry run” and only for the month of June.
“BC has done well under the guidance of our provincial health officials, and now is the time to take this next step together,” he said in a prior press conference.
The number of students in classes each day is being reduced for the safety of students and staff, with most in-class instruction being done part-time. For kindergarten to Grade 5, this means most students will go to school half time (such as alternating days), while grades 6 to 12 will go to school about one day a week.
Children of essential service workers and students needing additional supports may not have the option to attend school full-time. Families that decide not to send their children to class can continue learning from home.
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Implementing strict safety measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission
All school boards and independent school authorities are required to implement health and safety measures from the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC, as to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
In mid-May, Fleming said that the return “won’t be back to [what] the school life was before the pandemic,” noting that there “will be strict health and safety standards in place.”
Desks in classrooms are being spaced apart and high-contact surfaces such as doorknobs, toilet seats, keyboards, and desks are to be cleaned at least twice a day. The school building itself will be cleaned at least once a day.
Student drop-offs, as well as lunch and recess breaks, are being staggered to avoid larger gatherings. Staff and students will also be required to assess themselves daily for coronavirus symptoms. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to be returned home.
Students, educators, and staff are required to clean their hands before entering school property. There are also clear protocols in place so that students and employees don’t share food or personal items such as phones, pens, or pencils.
Speed limits in school zones are also back in effect
The provincial government and local police are also reminding drivers that with children returning to school, speed limits in school zones will be back in effect.
“We want to remind all road users to be extra vigilant,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure tells Daily Hive.
Tania Visintin, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department, adds that while drivers will need to pay careful attention, “road safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re on a bike, driving a car, or walking,” she says. “We can all do our part by planning ahead, giving ourselves a little extra time, and avoiding distractions while on the road.”
Speed in school zones is limited to 30 km/h between 8 am and 5 pm on school days. Fines for speeding start at $196, while fines for using an electronic device start at $368.