K-5 students in B.C. could be back in school in June

K-5 students in B.C. could be back in school in June

B.C. has announced a five-stage approach to get K-5 students back to in-class learning as early as next month if transmission rates remain low or decline.

“We’ve always said to parents, kids, teachers and support staff in the school system that when Dr. Bonnie Henry advises and when science tells us it’s safe to contemplate a return to school, we plan to accordingly on a very gradual basis, so we’re in that place now,” said B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming.

The five-stage approach is part of the province’s restart plan outlined on Wednesday that aims at reopening B.C.’s economy and bringing things back to normal. Schools reopening fall under phase 3 of the plan and will operate under enhanced protocols.

This includes controlled access to buildings, frequent cleaning, maintaining physical distancing and good hygiene practices. Physical distancing in school, for example, may look like “distance between desks,” said Fleming.

The province is currently in stage four of the education plan, with in-class learning instruction for children of essential service workers and vulnerable students and remote learning for most others.

Stage five was a suspension of all classes for all grades and students.

In June, stage three will begin, with students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 in class on a part-time basis, with some access for grades 6 to 12.

“What it means is reduced numbers of kids,” Fleming explained. “You take a typical Grade 2 class with 18 to 22 students in it, you divide that cohort in half. Each student would have a couple of full days of in-class instruction and the other half of the class would have a further two days of in-class instruction.”

All elementary school students will be back in class full-time in stage two, with high school students returning part-time.

Stage one will mark a return to normal in-class learning for all students.

There are, however, still many details that need to be worked out.

“Some of the conversations I’m having with teachers are, well, there isn’t a sink in my classroom, or there isn’t a bathroom nearby, and so how do we guarantee that safety? That handwashing piece?” said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

“I have had a hard time imagining how a kindergarten teacher is going to encourage those five-year-olds to socially distance.”

For now, school districts are asking parents to be patient until they have the answers.

“Once we get that information we will be sure to communicate that out to parents once we know what some definitive plans are looking like,” said Dave Eberwein, superintendent of Saanich School District.

Fleming said more information will be coming in the next few days and weeks.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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