Full-time in-class school to start Sept. 8 in B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Full-time in-class school to start Sept. 8 in B.C.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: Flickr/Province of B.C.
July 29, 2020 - 1:11 PM

The provincial government announced today, July 29, that all students will return to school full-time on Sept. 8 but with modifications for safety due to COVID-19.

Students and teachers in elementary and middle schools will be organized into learning groups of no more than 60, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference.

That doesn’t mean they will all be in the same classroom together. They will be able to interact with each other in common areas such as gyms, while outdoors and in the library. But, there will not be any tournaments, assemblies or large gatherings in schools this year.

"The idea is to manage bell times, lunchtimes and schedules so you can minimize the interaction with any other learning group," Dr. Henry said. "So that way we keep the pods, other learning groups, small."

For high schools, the groups can be as large as 120 people.

“We know how important it is for children to be back in school — to both support their emotional and mental health and their ability to socialize and to learn," Dr. Henry said. "Being back in school is also crucial to support many parents in being able to work, but we must do it safely. We ask for families and workplaces to continue to be flexible as we come into the fall.”

Elementary and middle school students will remain in their individual classrooms. In high schools, where students often move from classroom to classroom, they will continue to be organized in classrooms but their groups can be reconfigured each semester to accommodate different electives.

Between now and Sept. 8, high schools will look at how they organize their schedules since different schools work under different systems.

The idea is to have the same learning group take the same core and elective courses all together, although some may be able to take different electives if they can maintain safe distancing. That may work for things like band classes.

“In order for folks to conceptualize this, we really have to erase everything from the chalk board and start again,” Stephanie Higginson, president, B.C. School Trustees Association, said during the news conference. “We have to think about different ways of how to be in the school."

If the rate of COVID-19 increases significantly these plans might need to be amended but, Dr. Henry said, the plan is to maintain this new system throughout this school year.

The idea of having these learning groups is to be able to limit the number of interactions students, teachers and staff have on a day to day basis and to be able to trace contacts more effectively if someone is infected by COVID-19.

In the worst case scenario, an entire learning group of 120 may have to stay home from school and self-isolate but, if the disease is contracted from outside the school, it may only be the individual who needs to be isolated, Dr. Henry said.

While she doesn’t expect an increase in the spread of COVID-19 when schools open, Dr. Henry did say there may be more cases. But it’s also unhealthy to leave children away from school for an extended period of time.

“We have monitored the unintended negative consequences of a number of the measures we have put in place in B.C. and closing the schools has consequences that can be life-long for some children,” Dr. Henry said. “We know that children who have fallen behind may never make up both the economic and the educational impact of that. For them and their families and communities it can last for many, many years.

“We know there has been an increase in anxiety. There’s been an increase in mental health issues with young people, in the number of people calling children’s help line, families who have had difficulty managing their children at home. Schools are essential to not only our economy but to our society and our community and this is the safest way that we can move forward.”

The province is providing $45.6 million in one-time funding to help with things like more cleaning and hand wash stations.

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