Almost 60,000 BC students returned to the classroom on Monday, the first day of in-class instruction under the provincial government’s reopening plan, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced on Tuesday.
Speaking during a press conference, Fleming said that at the high end of these numbers were Grade 6 students at 48.3% of expected enrolment, while Grade 12 students were at the low end with 14.5%.
Fleming said these numbers reflect only the first day of the return to part-time in-school learning, and other students will gradually be back in their classrooms over the course of this week.
“We hope that the June restart is part of something that will help us have an even stronger start to school in September,” said Fleming. “We know that a lot of students have struggled at home … and I know teachers have done incredibly innovative things to make learning fun and engaging, but a lot of kids have missed in-class instruction, and there really is no substitute for that.”
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Currently, Kindergarten to Grade 5 classes are limited to 50% of the school’s capacity, with a half-time or alternating schedule. Grade 6 to 12 classes are limited to 20% of the school’s capacity and approximately one day a week.
Families who choose not to send their children to school are still being supported by teachers remotely, and schools are designating specific times for teachers to focus on remote education.
“We respect whatever choice [families] make,” said Fleming, noting that he’s already heard from some parents “who thought maybe they wouldn’t return their kids to school that are now displaying some interest.”
If families change their minds about in-class learning, they are asked to contact their child’s school as soon as possible so the school can plan to support the child, he added.
Fleming also noted that all school districts have health and safety plans approved by the Ministry of Education that follow strict guidelines provided by the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC.
Some of these health and safety measures include the following:
- Limiting the number of students in school, avoiding groups or gatherings of students in hallways or other common areas, and taking students outside more often.
- Regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces like door knobs, toilet seats, keyboards, and desks at least twice a day, and cleaning the school building at least once a day.
- Staggered drop-offs and lunch and recess breaks.
- Asking staff and students (or their parents/guardians) to assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19 with clear policies not to come to school if unwell. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to be returned home.
Local safety plans are posted on each school district’s website for parents to access.