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Our View: Clash over back to school was avoidable

The B.C. government should have forseen a reluctance to return to classrooms
B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming provides an update on part-time return to classes during a press conference at Monterey Middle School in Victoria, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. A group of COVID-19 modellers says the British Columbia government should increase physical distancing measures to help it more safely reopen schools next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The British Columbia government and health authorities have handled the pandemic reasonably well, up until a few weeks ago.

There are two issues right now – the rising case numbers, and the botched return to school plans.

The increase in COVID-19 cases is alarming, and if not stopped, could undo all the work and effort millions of British Columbians put in. But it was foreseen. Our medical officials warned us there could be a second wave.

We were warned not to gather in large groups, that we’d need to keep physically distancing, wear masks when that wasn’t possible, and that our lives would have to change.

Which makes the mixed messaging and sudden changes in the return to school so baffling.

For the last six months, we’ve heard nothing but the steady drumbeat of physical distancing, physical distancing, physical distancing.

Then the very people leading that chant, including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, said it’s okay to send kids back into classrooms, many of them unmasked, gathering in cohorts of between 60 and 120.

So the province expected us to simultaneously adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines, and to send kids straight back into situations that violate those guidelines.

Somehow, the province thought that all parents would be able to swallow this cognitive dissonance. When it became clear that there was a low rumble of rebellion, Education Minister Rob Fleming abruptly changed course, which has dumped the huge responsibility of crafting distance learning options on districts and teachers at the very last minute.

Educators in B.C. would tell any student that doing your homework at the last minute is a bad idea.

The same applies to the B.C. government when it comes to their back to school planning.

– M.C.