B.C. students return to the classroom amid Omicron-fuelled fifth wave

B.C. students return to the classroom amid Omicron-fuelled fifth wave

Even as the Omicron-fuelled fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs Canada, students in both B.C. and Alberta are heading back to class, despite the concerns of parents and students alike.

Students in both British Columbia and Alberta are back in their classrooms this morning after an extended winter break that lasted an extra week.

Many provinces imposed a weeklong delay in the return to in-person schooling as the Omicron variant spread rapidly across the country.

Some parents are choosing to keep their kids home anyway citing concerns about safety protocols at schools. Victoria’s Lisa Bosdet is one of them.

“We’re keeping both home much to their chagrin, they’re very disappointed, they love school, of course all kids do right?”

Bosdet’s 16-year-old daughter has a genetic disease that makes her highly vulnerable to COVID-19. Bosdet says she doesn’t feel enough has been done to keep her daughter and 14-year-old son safe at school yet she says nothing is being offered to allow her kids to continue their learning remotely.

“I’m going to keep my eye open and watch how it unfolds, and hopefully with some time we can potentially revisit them getting back to school,” Bosdet said.

The Sooke School District says attendance was down about 14 per cent Monday. Superintendent Scott Stinson admits there aren’t currently remote learning options for students staying home by choice.

“At this point we haven’t received any direction from the Ministry around hybrid or remote options for families, we’re really focusing on keeping our schools open,” he said.

But Stinson acknowledged that keeping schools open may become a challenge in the weeks ahead, either because of a major drop in attendance due to student illness, or teachers and staff off sick.

“If we have custodians away for example that we can’t fill and we can’t clean our schools we may not be able to open so it really depends on where those absences fall so it’ll be a day by day decision,” he said adding that if a school has to close it will likely remain closed for seven days.

Winona Waldron, the president of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association, said teachers are apprehensive about how the school year is going to look.

“We’ve been told to prepare for widespread illness and that’s scary for folks,” she said.

“Perhaps some people will have very mild symptoms and a cold, but what if you don’t? What if you’re one of the ones that gets very sick? Or gets one of your loved ones very sick?” Waldron continued.

The delayed start did help teachers plan what to do if schools shut down and move online, but not enough focus was put on new health and safety measures, according to Waldron.

Elsewhere, more than 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for the BC Institute of Technology to delay the return to in-class learning.

The chief medical officers of both British Columbia and Alberta have said returning to in-person learning is important for the mental well-being of students, arguing that that virtual learning presents its own risks to kids, jeopardizing their mental health.


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