Schools across the province will be welcoming back some students on Monday, as phase three of B.C.’s restart plan kicks in on June 1.
The return is optional and will see students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 in class on a part-time basis, with some access for grades 6 to 12.
Ana Harford has three children who go to school and she’s excited to see them back in class.
“I’m happy to send my kids back,” she said, while taking a walk with her kids in Victoria. “They’re excited to be with their friends and it’s hard for them to be at home and isolated. But I think the schools are taking good measures to distance all of the kids and for them to be safe in school.”
Harford’s daughter, Kylie, is in Grade 7.
“I’m excited to go back because I get to see all my classmates again and it’s easier to learn in school rather than like getting emails from my teacher,” Kylie said.
But Harford’s younger daughter, Teagan, isn’t as happy as her big sister.
“I don’t really like math or like spelling or anything,” she said. “I’d like, rather stay at home,” adding that there’s just so much more to do at home.
Kylie will be going back to her middle school for one day a week, while Teagan will be in her elementary class for two days a week.
The province is currently in stage four of the education restart plan, with in-class learning instruction for children of essential service workers and vulnerable students and remote learning for most others. The five-stage approach is part of B.C.’s Restart Plan outlined earlier this month that aims at reopening the economy and bringing things back to normal.
Stage three begins tomorrow, with schools enforcing protocols like staggered start times, rotating schedules, smaller class sizes, frequent hand washing and physical distancing.
The provincial health officer said Saturday the re-opening of schools was purposely timed for two weeks after the start date of phase two to make sure they could do so safely.
“If we had seen an increase, then we would have postponed or delayed the start of schools,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “So I am comfortable with what we’ve been watching that we are in a place where we can do this.”
Not all parents, however, are convinced.
“We don’t have a vaccine, we don’t have enough knowledge,” said Brenda Mercer, whose son goes to middle school in Esquimalt. “My son doesn’t have a need to go to school.”
Brenda’s son, Levi, is able to do all of his learning online and doesn’t require extra assistance to understand the material.
“The best we can do is listen and communicate with our kids and find the fit that’s best,” she explained, noting that some parents may have no other choice, or some children may need to be in class to learn.
In B.C., only a small portion of confirmed COVID-19 cases are those under the age of 19, Henry said Saturday. Children are less likely to become infected and typically have milder symptoms.
Quebec re-opened their schools earlier this month, and within two weeks, had reported that 41 staff and students had tested positive for the virus.
Transmission of the disease in school, Henry said, is something that could happen.
“It is possible and I would not be surprised if we did have one or two cases, perhaps, arise in our schools in the coming weeks,” she said. “But that’s OK, we know how to deal with this. We know that it is not easily spread and we know we can prevent it by putting in place the measures that we have in our schools.”
Health officials also say it’s not children who typically spread the disease, it’s the adults.
“We probably need to focus less on the children, but probably on the adults, they’re the ones that are more likely to introduce it into the classroom, so to speak,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical officer. “So along with lessons could come COVID-19.”