It appears that schools won’t be reopening in British Columbia any time in the immediate future.
On Tuesday, Rob Fleming, the province’s minister of education, told reporters during a press conference that no decision has been made on when public schools will reopen at this point. He said B.C. will be monitoring places like New Zealand – where students are going back into the classroom – and following the science and data before making any decisions.
“We will return to regular school life down the road and that road will be shorter and sooner if we continue to act together and act now with measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” he said.
There are currently around 2,000 students out of around 550,000 students that are actually showing up at schools for class, said Fleming, adding that those students are mostly children of front line workers. He also said that the province hopes to expand the number of students returning to classrooms.
“We hope to expand that because as we’ve learned during this pandemic there are a lot of crucially important points in our economy that helps sustain all of us if we are to get through this together, so there are other tiers of essential workers who are involved in the school system. We expect those numbers to grow in the coming weeks because it is necessary to do so to support the economic activity that we have,” Fleming said.
Asked by CHEK News about what the reasons were for opting against opening schools or announcing any kind of timeframe for a decision on reopening, Fleming said the province is relying on scientific data to inform them on when to reopen.
“At the end of the day, it is the science and the data . . . that will determine what is safe and what is the right thing to do,” he said.
The education minister said the approach that the province will take, must be a “made in B.C.” approach.
“We are going to have to have a made in B.C. approach that acknowledges and learns from other jurisdictions but is based on how we are doing as a province; how we are fighting not just to contain COVID-19, but to eradicate it,” he said.
Fleming was also asked whether students would be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to school, whenever a vaccine is developed. The minister said he’d like to be able to discuss that “problem” in the future.
“I truly hope that we can discuss such a problem as having a vaccine and how to implement it down the road and I hope that comes sooner than what many experts are predicting around the world, but I think that in terms around a public health program around vaccination, that is going to have to be something that is widespread in order to be effective in British Columbia,” he said. “We need to address British Columbians of all ages. The school system can effectively deliver vaccination programs as we do for other diseases currently.”