British Columbia

B.C. teachers worry back-to-school plan needs more time

The province announced Wednesday that most B.C. students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to class full time in September, but some teachers say they need more time to prepare.

Province announced most students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to class full time in September

Most elementary and secondary school students are set to return to the classroom in September, but some teachers say more time is needed to properly plan for it. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province says most B.C. students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to class full time in September, but some teachers say they need more time to prepare. 

The provincial plan, announced Wednesday by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Education Minister Rob Fleming, organizes students into "learning groups" to reduce the number of people they come in contact with, cutting the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.

Elementary and middle school learning groups will have a maximum of 60 students, while those in secondary school will have up to 120. 

Elementary school teacher Allison Baird will be heading back to the classroom in September, but the summer leading up to the school start will be unlike any before.

"In a typical summer you shut off July 1, and you don't check your emails until mid-August. But I have a feeling a lot of us are going to be online, emailing each other back and forth," Baird said. 

Teacher Allison Baird is pictured at a park in New Westminster, British Columbia on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Some administrators are calling for a delay of the school year altogether.

Ken Christensen with the Coquitlam Teachers Association says the back-to-school push is a heavy burden on teachers. 

"I don't think it's fair and reasonable to be asking teachers and schools to be coming in on their summer vacation to help organizers and arrange this stuff."

More needs to be done, says BCTF

That call for more time is echoed by the B.C. Teachers Federation. 

Teri Mooring, head of the BCTF, said while they are in full support of students returning to class to the extent it is safe to do so, much more needs to be done.

"There just hasn't been enough discussion. Some of these concepts have come to the steering committee very recently. There hasn't been the opportunity to have those discussions. Some of this information hasn't gone to the working groups at all," Mooring said. 

Mooring noted there are still lingering questions around scheduling and health and safety measures.

"Those are all the details that are going to be essential for teachers to feel comfortable."

For Baird, who is also a parent, the September start will be a challenge. 

"I know our family will follow the rules, and I know our family will try really hard, but I'm just concerned about other families. I know how hard it is when you wake up in the morning when your child has a runny nose," she said.

With files from B.C. Today, Jon Hernandez

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