British Columbia

Summer classes not likely as B.C. works on 'rational' plan for returning kids to school

B.C. is unlikely to follow Quebec's lead in reopening schools beginning in early May, nor has the province set a date for a return to class.

Provincial health officer says priority will be children of essential workers and younger students

B.C. suspended in-classroom instruction on March 17. (Jonathon Hayward/The Canadian Press)

B.C. is unlikely to follow Quebec's lead in reopening schools beginning in early May, nor has the province set a date for a return to class.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that Quebec has "its own approach" to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes a gradual reopening of schools beginning on May 11.

"I was warned by some of my colleagues in Quebec that they were going to be coming out with some of their plans this week," Henry said.

"We've been working with the Ministry of Education to come out with our own rational plan for what we're planning on doing in the coming days and weeks."

All in-class instruction in B.C. schools was suspended on March 17, and Henry said the province is now working on how and when classrooms might be able to reopen with the proper protections for teachers, staff and students. That would include physical distancing measures, provisions for frequent handwashing and regular cleaning of classrooms and other school spaces.

The priority will be providing classroom space for the children of essential workers.

"We need to make sure that we are able to provide the educational services that are needed, particularly for those younger children who can't stay home by themselves if their parents are going off to work," Henry said.

She said she expects some children will be back in class before the end of the school year, but how that will look is still a matter of discussion.

"We're not thinking about school over the summer, but we want to make sure that we have plans that address all of our issues for the fall," Henry said.

She also suggested that the return to school could be part of a "hybrid" model that mixes distance learning with in-person instruction.

The Vancouver School Board has already begun the process of welcoming students back to schools, opening in-person instruction for students with "exceptionally high learning needs" who depend on face-to-face interaction.

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