B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming looks at a water fountain not in use as Jacob Cunliffe, 13, left, and his brother Joshua take a tour at Monterey Middle School with the minister following an update on part-time return to classes at in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming looks at a water fountain not in use as Jacob Cunliffe, 13, left, and his brother Joshua take a tour at Monterey Middle School with the minister following an update on part-time return to classes at in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

Much of the plan around returning to school will be up to individual school districts

The B.C. government is aiming for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 to be back to school full-time in September – but parts of the classroom will likely look much different as part of the “new normal.”

On Wednesday (July 29), Education Minister Rob Fleming and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry unveiled the province’s education plan amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with Sept. 8 as the return-to-school date for the 2020-21 school year.

Students will be organized into “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Students will be assigned to groups of up to 60 for younger grades and 120 for high school, and does mean that some middle and high school students will see some changes to their daily schedules.

Staff and students will also be required to assess themselves daily for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, they will be told to stay home.

The province will also be giving $45.6 million in funding to schools to ensure adequate and regular cleaning of high-contact services, as well as increasing the number of available hand-hygiene stations and optional masks.

Most of the other details will be left up to individual school districts, with the province providing general operational guidelines.

Schools in B.C. shuttered doors in March as daily case counts began to increase, requiring parents to home-school their kids. Many struggled to balance working from home with helping their children finish the school year.

ALSO READ: The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Meanwhile, teachers had to quickly adapt lesson plans to rely on online assignments and virtual teaching.

The province moved to a hybrid model in June, blending voluntary in-classroom and online curriculum. Roughly 200,000 students attended in-person schooling.

Fleming told reporters that the plan follows ongoing planning with Henry and school trustees and administrators from across B.C., based on teacher and parent feedback.

“We were the only jurisdiction in Canada that brought students back into the classroom provincewide before the end of the school year and this has given us valuable information that we are using to develop our plans, ensuring health and safety at schools remain paramount,” Fleming said.

Families can expect to hear from their local school district or independent school in the coming weeks with specific plans for how learning groups will be scheduled, as well as updated health and safety guidelines.

Final details will have to be submitted to the ministry and posted online no later than Aug. 26.

B.C.’s top doctor said that she knows how important in-class schooling is for children’s mental health.

“We ask for families and workplaces to continue to be flexible as we come into the fall,” Henry said.

“We’ve put a lot of thoughtful work and consideration into reopening schools this fall and in making sure we re supporting children in ways that keep them, the people who teach them and our communities safe.”

In a statement, the B.C. Teachers Federation said the plan needs “more time and work” before rolling out – specifically through consultation with school districts and local unions.

“If the plan is rushed or too many questions are left unanswered, it won’t be successful,” it read in part. “Bringing everyone back all at once, even with some version of a cohort model on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend is too much

too soon, given the many unanswered questions in today’s announcement.”

Health officials and political leaders have acknowledged that a surge of coronavirus cases in the fall – dubbed the second wave – could possibly foil these plans.

Last week, Premier John Horgan told parents to start thinking about a Plan B but stopped short of offering any specifics.

ALSO READ: Premier wants parents to have Plan B if COVID-19 disrupts September school plans


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Just Posted

Shortreed Elementary received $40,000 from the Indigo Love of Reading foundation to purchase new books. (Special to The Star)
VIDEO: Shortreed one of 30 Canadian schools aided by Indigo’s Love of Reading program

Aldergrove school received $40,000, which will be put towards new books for the library

Students staged a flash mob on the last day of dancing at Lisa’s School of Dance in Langley City on Saturday, June 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Final dances held at Lisa Dew’s dance school in Langley City

After 35 years, the school has been forced to close due to the bottom-line impact of the pandemic

Jessica Horst, a volunteer with the Bertrand Creek Enhancement Society, picked Scotch Broom at Jackman Wetlands on Wednesday night. (Lisa Dreves/Special to The Star)
Scotch broom removal a big task six years in the making at Jackman Wetlands

Volunteers filled a truck-full of invasive shrub growing rampant in Aldergrove park

Health and safety protocols for arriving international travellers are strict and don’t consider reasons for travel, says a letter writer. (Black Press Media files)
LETTER: Langley performer irked by ever-changing, inconsistent COVID rules

Letter writer feels she had not choice but to move to Mexico to ride out pandemic

A fawn separated from his mother by a well-meaning homeowner in Maple Ridge is a cautionary tale, say Conservation officers and staff at Langley’s Critter Care wildlife sanctuary. (Critter Care/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Maple Ridge fawn in Langley wildlife sanctuary after separation from mother

Wildlife officials say moving a fawn is not a good idea

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read