After the B.C. government revealed more details about the back-to-school plan for grade schools across the province, a B.C. teachers organization had both praise for efforts and a desire for even more health and safety precautions to be implemented to help protect all involved.
B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announced on August 26 that back-to-school plans have been posted online for all of the province’s school districts.
The plans include information about how learning groups will be organized; when masks are required; daily schedules, including classes and breaks; daily health assessment requirements; pick-up and drop off times; protocols for common areas; hand washing directions; and orientation information. Each school district will adapt schedules and learning groups to fit within provincial health and safety measures based on school populations and consultations.
All school districts will contact families in their school communities to share safety plans and to confirm if their child will attend classes in person in September or if they need alternative learning options.
"I know that some families will continue to have medical or health concerns, and my expectation is that school districts will be flexible and work with families to provide remote options that keep children connected to their school community,” Fleming stated. All school boards are authorized to offer remote options to students within their districts, and the ability to increase existing programs to meet demand.
While schools will have elementary and middle school students each day, timetables at secondary schools have been modified so that students can attend most days. Almost 79 percent of school districts will use a quarterly semester system for some or all secondary schools.
Information will also be provided about:
• how districts will support mental health and wellness;
• what districts are doing to prioritize vulnerable students and those requiring additional support (such as students with disabilities and diverse abilities), and children and youth in care for full-time, in-class learning and services;
• how Indigenous rightsholders are involved in consultations;
• plans for Indigenous students living on-reserve and attending public school.
The B.C. Education Minister will review operational plans for independent schools will be reviewed this week, and plans will be posted on school websites next week.
In response to the announcement, B.C. Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring thanked B.C. Premier John Horgan for helping to obtain $242 million in federal funding for ensuring schools restart safely.
In addition, she said that the announced inclusion of options for remote learning is integral, particularly for students with health issues, those in families in multigenerational homes, or those with an immune-compromised member in their household.
Yet Mooring also continued to express concerns that physical distancing is not possible in schools and classrooms, and that more preventative measures need to be implemented.
Mooring is hoping that the $242 million will go towards improving safety.
The BCTF launched a campaign on August 21 in which teachers and parents have sent over 18,000 emails to B.C. MLAs to ask for their help in improving the plan for returning to schools, including reducing class sizes and school density, more mask regulations, and funding to improve ventilation and cleaning.