Tuesday March 17, 2020 ~ BC
by Mary Brooke ~ West Shore Voice News
All BC public and independent schools delivering K-12 education will remain closed after spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is beginning to ramp up in terms of community spread of the infection and the subsequent socioeconomic impact.
That news was delivered by Premier John Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming today in a news conference, with both saying it was not a decision taken lightly.
Premier Horgan said there will be more discussion with stakeholders as to how to return to a regular scenario later on, in partnership with school districts and independent schools.
Minister Fleming said his decision was made in consultation with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry.
One of the responsibilities of schools is “to keep kids and staff and families in the school communities as safe as possible”, said Fleming. “We’re used to schools being safe places, where kids learn and grow and socialize.” he said. But said that to protect students and staff, education partners and teachers in system that all in-class instruction is to stop immediately, until further notice.
“Ninety-nine percent of students are already on spring break this week. A small number of independent schools are not on break yet — they are being directed to suspend in-class instruction,” said Fleming.
But schools are to deliver “continuity of instruction”. Minister Fleming said that schools will have plans in place – for children who are on the front line – teachers, health care workers, first responders and pharmacists.
Most of the BC curriculum is already online, said Fleming. It could now be delivered by email and online technologies. Teachers will now need to adapt their instruction to accommodate the remote reality as students self-isolate with their families.
Students in BC were to head back to class after spring break on March 30.
Fleming said he has been in frequent contact with school districts to look for best practices as plans are developed.
“Every student will receive a final mark, and all who are on track to proceed to the next grade will do so,” Fleming said. Graduation ceremonies will be postponed, but every Grade 12 student who is eligible to graduate, will do so. Graduation eligibility includes Grade 10 numeracy fulfillment, which most Grade 12’s will have fulfilled, said Fleming.
Minister Fleming is also working with post-secondary institutions to see that the transition for graduated students into post-secondary will proceed smoothly next year.
Vulnerable students will have their needs met, said Fleming. That includes for families that depend on meal programs and child care operations. Schools are already considering these scenarios and are “prepared to meet those challenges together” — schools, school districts, teachers, school boards, superintendents, and students.
“We will work through this together as plans are developed,” said Fleming, says that “not all answers” are known today “in a fast moving situation”.
“We must work together to meet the needs of schools and school communities,” said Fleming, saying these decisions have been designed to best protect students as well as elders, seniors, and grandparents — the ones who are most vulnerable.
“This is a very challenging time but it’s temporary and we will return to regular school life and continue on the road,” said Rob Fleming. “Take care of one another.”