British Columbia

No plan to reopen B.C. schools yet, says education minister

Education Minister Rob Fleming says staff is still studying how and when to return to in-class learning while hoping to learn from other jurisdictions who are starting to bring students and teachers back.

Rob Fleming says staff is still studying how and when to return to in-class learning

An empty classroom at Magee Secondary School in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Although some jurisdictions have announced plans to reopen schools, B.C. isn't ready to join them just yet, according to the education minister. 

In a teleconference Tuesday, Rob Fleming said the province is still studying how and when to resume in-class learning, while trying to learn lessons from the places where students and teachers are returning to classrooms.

"Ministry staff is researching controlled return to in-class instruction and speaking to other jurisdictions to see how they are transitioning. New Zealand, for example, is starting back tomorrow," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's the science and the data around how we are combating COVID-19 that will determine what we do."

B.C. schools were closed March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Quebec announced that it would begin gradual reopening of schools, welcoming back students in elementary schools and children in daycare on a progressive basis early next month. 

Commenting on the stress many parents are feeling in having to guide their children's learning at home, Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association said she feels their pain.

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming says the province is still studying how and when to resume in-class learning. (CBC)

"As a working parent of two young school aged children myself, I keep reminding myself that I am not their teacher, I am their parent,"she said. "Don't be too hard on yourselves."

Fleming said staff was looking at what kind of personal protective equipment might be required if and when students start returning to class.

In response to a question about whether every student will need to be vaccinated once one is available, Fleming said it would be a good problem to have but it was too early to speculate.

"We will return to regular school life down the road, and that return will be shorter and sooner if we keep following safety measures," he said.

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

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