Schools are set to re-open on June 1, as schools and teachers set up their classrooms to accommodate the BC government’s guidelines on social distancing and sanitation and sterilization of the environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The in-class instruction is voluntary and will be part-time for the final few weeks of the school year, as districts continue to try and stem the spread of the virus that caused the pandemic.
In letters, surveys, and questionnaires, assurances of social distancing and sanitizing measures are being taken into account to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but what that will look like, precisely, is still not clear for many districts and independent schools all over the province.
“Each school district, each school for that matter, will have different configurations of how they’ll operate in June and that will inform how we prepare for September,” Premier John Horgan said, adding he understands parents have concerns. He said the gradual reopening starting in June will pave the way for a full reopening in September, but it is important that parents feel comfortable with sending children to school before that happens.
Officials say that the schools will look different from before COVID-19. Student numbers will be limited in schools, things like lunch breaks/pick-up/drop-off will be staggered, and parents will be required to self-check for flu-like symptoms every morning. The guidelines mean that students Grade 5 and under who choose to return will be in class 2-3 days a week, and those from Grade 6-12 will be in school one day per week.
Other measures will include school buses with one student per seat, plexiglass separating drivers, encouraged outdoor time and avoidance of clustered activities. There will also be rigorous sanitation and cleaning procedures for schools and an increased focus on hand-washing.
“Things will be very strict, and it needs to be,” said B.C. education minister Rob Fleming. “We also need to remember a lot of young children returning to school will have experienced stress and anxiety in their lives because of the pandemic, and it’s important kids get this type of support from schools, as well.”
“It’s our genuine desire to make sure no one feels pressured to do it,” Horgan said, adding that the province has consulted with school boards across the province for months to ensure a uniform launch of the re-start. “I understand parents and children are anxious about going back to classrooms, and we want to assure you that we would not be making this announcement today if we felt there is an undue risk to the health and well-beings of the youngsters going into our schools and the adults.”