BC’s Minister of Education announced on Tuesday the province is “planning for the future” to get students back into classrooms, but an official date or timeline has yet to be given.
Schools across the province have suspended in-classroom instruction since March to combat the spread of COVID-19 and Education Minister Rob Fleming said BC will be taking a “controlled and measured” approach to reopening schools.
He added the province would not “flick a switch to start up the school system” but rather work to “dial-up” the number of people in schools when the appropriate health and safety standards can be met.
Fleming made clear that BC will not be rushing this process. While some places, such as Quebec, have already announced a back-to-school timeline, Fleming said the province will be prioritizing planning.
“I think a couple of other jurisdictions have sort of put setting a date ahead of establishing developing a comprehensive and safe plan and I think that’s backwards,” he said.
“I think what we are doing is working with all the education stakeholders, working with the provincial health office to really have a tight health and safety protocol.”
The protocol will address the many questions about what learning settings will look like when students and teachers return and how to implement safety measures into classrooms.
Fleming said currently, the province is planning for a number of possible scenarios and consulting with officials and other jurisdictions to determine the safest steps going forward.
Until then, most students will continue their at-home learning instruction utilizing online tools such as Zoom video conferencing to communicate with their teachers and complete assignments.
Fleming said the province has onboarded 20,000 teachers and 275,000 students to the Zoom platform. Over 23,000 computers and devices have been loaned to students to support learning at home.
Some students — including children of essential workers and those who need extra learning support — are back in classrooms but with appropriate distancing and safety measures in place.
While teachers, students, and parents eagerly await for a back-to-school date, Fleming made clear that direction from public health officials will be a key deciding factor for schools reopening.
“I want to reiterate at the end of the day, it’s the science and the data of how we’re combatting COVID-19 that will determine what is safe and what is the right thing to do.”