BC health officials "not going to put a date" on when kids might return to classrooms

Apr 16 2020, 4:21 pm

With BC students now learning from home – the majority of them through virtual lessons with their teachers – there are questions about when they could return to the classroom.

And it’s a question that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said officials are focused on, even if they can’t pinpoint an exact date.

Henry’s comments come in the wake of comments made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford who recently provided an update on when kids might expect to return to the classroom.  On March 31, the Ontario government had said public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1, 2020, and to students until Monday, May 4, 2020. However, last week,  he confirmed that students will not be going back to school next month as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

Despite the extension in school closures though, Ford said the school year has not been cancelled and that Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce would have more information “in the coming days.”

Asked at a recent press conference about BC’s situation and decision-making process in this regard, Henry said there is a “risk of increased transmission if large numbers of children congregate back together too soon,” and as such, believes the need exists to “continue with the virtual classroom for the next few weeks.”

That being said, Henry added that officials are considering what it will look like when kids ultimately do return to school.

“We have been considering how could we have physical classrooms come back together in a way that protects children and protects the staff, the teachers, the early childhood educators within the educational setting,” she said.

Officials are also aware there are children who are falling behind. “When they have gaps like this, they’re not able to catch up as easily.” As such, “we want to make sure that our system is doing everything it can to support those children, so those are the considerations that we have.”

For now, Henry said she is “not going to put a date” on when kids might return to the classroom setting, “because it really depends on how things manage over the next two weeks.”

In the meantime, “we are talking about planning and re-opening, and what that might look like.”

Henry acknowledged “there’s still going to be things like physical distancing and hand-washing that are not going to change, and how we do that in the best possible way in our classroom settings is one of the questions that we will be answering over the next few weeks.”