British Columbia

Will B.C. schools get extended spring break? Situation will be reviewed daily, provincial health officer says

"The impacts of closing schools, especially abruptly, can cause social disruptions," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, who wants to make sure if that decision is reached, it is done so in a measured, thoughtful way. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry wants any decision reached in a measured, thoughtful way to avoid 'social disruptions'

Tommy Tran, 17, shares sanitizer with his friends near Sullivan Heights Secondary School in Surrey, B.C., just days before a two-week spring break which the province says could be extended if virus risks are detected in B.C. schools. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Closures and cancellations continue as the coronavirus spreads globally but unlike students in Washington state or Ontario, B.C. kids are scheduled to be back in class after the regularly scheduled spring break.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the province has no immediate plan to close schools after the two-week break, which begins Monday, but will be reviewing the situation daily over the holiday and could change that decision.

"The impacts of closing schools, especially abruptly, can cause social disruptions," said Henry, who wants to make sure if that decision is reached, it is done so in a measured, thoughtful way. 

She said spring break gives officials the time they need to investigate issues around schools and determine what is the best course of action to take.

Right now, according to Henry, schools are a place where young people can be kept safe and learn about social distancing, which the government is recommending to reduce the risk of infection. She said if risks are detected in B.C. schools, the province will close them.

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why schools are being kept open for now:

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. isn't closing schools

3 years ago
Duration 1:03
The provincial health officer says B.C. isn't following the lead of other provinces in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Ontario, public schools will be closed for an additional two weeks after spring break, while a number of counties in Washington state have closed schools for six weeks.

In B.C., many parents feel like they are playing a waiting game.

"It would be nice for parents to be able to get their ducks in a row if schools are going to be closed," said Krista Sigurdson, parent advisory council chair of Lord Strathcona Elementary School in Vancouver.

She said if schools do close for a longer period, figuring out childcare will be complicated because many people are concerned about social contact and the spread of coronavirus.

Ateesh Chand, PAC president at LA Matheson Secondary School in Surrey, said he is fine with closing schools if there is a rational reason why, such as to decontaminate the buildings.

Contamination is something Chand, who has two school-aged children and a newborn, is very worried about. He makes sure his older kids change their clothes immediately after they get home and before interacting with their youngest sibling.

"A lot of outside people come into schools," said Chand. "There are so many different ways for contamination to occur."

Henry said Thursday she is recommending against all non-essential travel outside of Canada, and called for the cancellation of any gatherings of more than 250 people.

This means students who travel during spring break will not be able to return to classes for 14 days because they could put their classmates at risk.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

With files from The Early Edition

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