Elementary and secondary schools across British Columbia will remained closed indefinitely, B.C. education minister Rob Fleming announced today (March 17).
“This is a very challenging time in B.C. and around the world,” he said at a press conference in Victoria. “The actions we are taking today are temporary. We will return to regular school life down the road. In the meantime, look out for one another.”
The order for students to stay home from school is the latest precautionary measure that authorities are taking in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"As the global pandemic of COVID-19 is evolving quickly and is having a growing impact in B.C., we have to take action today to protect our students and staff and keep our schools safe,” Fleming said. “Parents and guardians are asked to talk to their children. Let kids know that [these] measures are designed to best protect them and to protect the people most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Most B.C. students are away from the classroom this week, out on spring break. A few private schools remained open with students in attendance until today. But for most, the order to close schools will take effect Monday (March 23).
Fleming said that once spring bring is over, schools and teachers will be expected to resume delivering some form of "continuity of learning".
"We will continue to work in consultation with our education partners as we plan how we will provide ongoing education services," he explained. "We'll be in frequent contact with school districts and independent school authorities to ensure that we work through this challenge together and to look for best practices as plans are developed."
The education minister acknowledged that students preparing to make the transition from grade school to a college or university might be feeling particular anxious about the closures implemented today.
"I know that parents of students in Grade 12 will have unique concerns,” he said. “Every student eligible to graduate Grade 12 this year will graduate.”
The total number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. stands at 103, according to Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) latest update on the issue. Three people have died.
“Currently, there are six people in acute care, five have fully recovered and all others are self-isolating at home,” VCH’s March 16 update reads.