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COVID return to school starts Sept 8 for teachers, Sept 10 for students

Easing into a new scenario, to continue in-class learning despite the pandemic.

Thursday August 13, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary Brooke, editor | West Shore Voice News

“School is going to look a little different this year, as staff and students need a little extra time to prepare for a new and safe learning experience,” it was stated by BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming today.

Orientation week starts on Tuesday September 8 after the Labour Day long weekend. Staff will return on September 8 to familiarize themselves with the updated health and safety guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they will work in their school.

Students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by Thursday September 10. Time in-class will be used for becoming familiar with classrooms and schedules that will look different than they did before the pandemic.

Rob Fleming, education minister
Education Minister Rob Fleming announces phased-in approach to the start of the 20202-2021 academic year.

Fleming said outdoor education will play a large role in the first two months of classes and emphasized the importance of students returning to schools to continue their education.

“We can’t sacrifice 18 months of education, we have to learn how to do things safely during this pandemic. That’s why we’ve developed and evolved the guidelines to maximize the return to in-class instruction,” Fleming said.

The 18-month time frame implies the waiting period before a COVID-19 vaccine is available and widely administered. Even that is a guesstimate.

Chipper tone in social media:

“BC schools are looking forward to welcoming back students and staff, safely!” it was stated on the BC Government’s Facebook page, where they were trying to reach families through social media.

Options for parents:

“Our updated five-stage plan allows in-class instruction to be adjusted depending on the risk of transmission and advice from the provincial health officer,” it was stated by the Ministry of Education on August 12.

“This enables us to move between stages if necessary, based on guidance from the provincial health officer and BC Centre for Disease Control.”

SEAPARC, weight room, fitness classes
Weight room now open at SEAPARC Leisure Complex. Yoga & indoor cycling captions available.

“We are encouraging parents to enrol their children as they normally would and will continue to work to build their confidence in the safe restart of in-class learning,” the Ministry stated.

Parents who do not want to their child to attend in-person classes have the option to register their child for online/distributed learning, or home-schooling. By law, all children in BC must be educated.

Health and Safety committee:

Starting September 8, all staff will meet with their school’s joint health and safety committee to receive instructions about how the updated guidelines, co-developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer, will work in their school. This will also allow time for educators and staff to adjust to their new routines, finalize plans for learning groups, review health and safety protocols, and confirm lesson plans that align with the new normal in schools.

Orientation September 10:

Premier John Horgan, August 12, 2020, Victoria
Premier John Horgan on August 12, 2020 announcing the upcoming hire of 500 new contact tracers during COVID-19.

Students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by Thursday September 10 and will use their orientation time to get familiar with classrooms that will look different than they did before the pandemic.

Students will be assigned to their class, find out who is in their learning group, practise their new routines and familiarize themselves with how to safely move from the class to outdoor and common areas of the school.

Yesterday Premier John Horgan in addressing media said he felt that the phased-in approach to return-to-school this year shows that the Ministry of Education and his government are adapting to circumstances as the COVID pandemic progresses.

Readiness checklists:

This week, on August 10, school districts were provided with readiness checklists to ensure they are updating their health and safety plans and considering, communicating and consulting with their unions, Indigenous rightsholders, staff and families in their local communities. They will also need to ensure their plans address equity and inclusion of children who require additional support in school.

K-12 Restart committee:

Health and safety of teachers, staff and students is leading the work being done by the K-12 education restart steering committee and working groups with membership from all education partners and health experts. These groups are also working to create detailed operational guidelines, which will be available by August 17 to support school districts with their restart plans, including guidance on:

  • implementing the updated health and safety protocols;
  • ensuring kids who require extra support are prioritized and have the services they need;
  • supporting the mental health and wellness of students who may be experiencing additional challenges because of the pandemic;
  • ensuring fewer contacts and a safe workplace for those who interact with more than one learning group – such as specialists, teachers on call, educational assistants, cafeteria staff or bus drivers;
  • supporting hybrid instruction with a blend of in-person learning and remote learning for dense urban secondary schools with large student populations;
  • minimizing physical contact within learning groups; and
  • ensuring before- and after-school child care on school grounds allows kids to stay within their learning groups as much as possible.

“By working collaboratively with leaders in our education system, we are making sure students and staff are safe, ready and welcome when they return to school in September,” Fleming said.

Meeting with stakeholders:

To help guide the transition back to school in the safest way possible, Minister Fleming has also been meeting regularly with the presidents of the BC Teachers’ Federation, CUPE, B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the B.C. School Trustees Association, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Métis Nation BC, the B.C. Principals and Vice Principals Association, BC Association of School Business Officials, BC School Superintendents Association and the Federation of Independent School Associations in British Columbia.

OakTree Naturals, Langford, COVID-19 hours
OakTree Naturals is open 10 am to 5 pm (Monday to Saturday) during COVID-19.

Learn More:

More information on the K-12 Education Restart Plan: gov.bc.ca/covid19returntoschool

Information on WorksafeBC’s guidelines for K-12 schools: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/covid-19-returning-safe-operation/education

To find a local school district, visit: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/schools/bcmap.htm

Government link with the official news release August 12:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020EDUC0054-001506