British Columbia

John Horgan reassures parents and teachers that gradual return to B.C. classrooms will be safe

B.C.'s premier says he understands there is some nervousness about in-classroom instruction resuming in schools, but the province has taken public health concerns into account.

Premier says June will be a 'dry run' for the new school year in September

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he understands there is some nervousness about in-classroom instruction. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

B.C.'s premier says he understands there is some nervousness about in-classroom instruction resuming in schools, but the province has taken public health concerns into account.

Beginning June 1, some children will return to class on a part-time, voluntary basis. The number of students in each room will be limited, and the province has promised rigorous cleaning.

At a news conference Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said it makes sense that some teachers and parents are apprehensive about expanding the number of social contacts in their lives.

"I want to assure teachers, I want to assure parents that we would not have opened up schools again in June if we did not believe it was safe to do so," Horgan said.

"These are times filled with anxiety, but we've tried to reduce that anxiety as much as possible by putting in a plan that will allow for … physical distancing for teachers and kids as well as making sure we're reminding children of how joyous school can be."

In-class learning was suspended in B.C. on March 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, there are about 5,000 students still in physical classrooms, including the children of essential workers and students who need extra support.

Horgan said the plan for reopening classrooms was made in consultation with public health officials and WorkSafeBC.

He described the partial return to class in June as a "dry run" for how physical distancing measures might look for the new school year in September.

"Each school district — each school for that matter — will have different configurations for how they operate in June and that will inform how we prepare for September," Horgan said.

"There will be innovation over the summer as people look at what the outcomes are through June and how we can improve on that."

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