Minister of Education Rob Fleming and the B.C. government have revealed their plan for the first week of school coming up this September amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new plan is to have students return to the classrooms for the week of September 8-11, however, in a more gradual format than initially outlined in order to allow extra time for health and safety measures.
This announcement comes one day after Fleming revealed the original start date of September 8 was being pushed back.
According to the government, starting Sept. 8, all staff will meet with their school’s ‘health and safety committee’ to receive updated instructions on protocols. The government said the new health guidelines have been co-developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer and will operate slightly differently depending on the facility.
In the first couple of days, educators will also finalize plans for learning groups, while adjusting to the new routine and confirming lesson plans that align with the “new normal.”
Students will be welcomed back to classrooms for orientation by September 10, according to the government.
Orientation time will be utilized to familiarize students will classrooms and protocols, while assigning learning groups. The government said there will also be time for students to learn how to safely navigate from class to the common areas of a facility.
“Schools are going to look different in September,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “Staff, students and parents need time to get familiar with all the new health and safety procedures that are designed to keep them safe and confident in their school settings.”
According to the government, school districts were provided with readiness checklists back on August 10. These checklists 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.
Plans are required to address equity and inclusion of children who require additional support in school, adds the government.
“The 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,” reads a statement from the government.
The restart committee and working groups are in the process of creating detailed operational guidelines, which will be available by Aug. 17 for school districts. The operational guides will include information 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.
The B.C. Government and Minister Fleming add that they’ve been communicating “regularly” with school stakeholders such as the B.C. School Trustees Association, CUPE, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Métis Nation BC, the B.C. Principals and Vice Principals Association and BC Association of School Business Officials in order to ensure a safe return.
The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association has responded to the change, saying it amounts to one extra day of planning as students usually only briefly attend the first day to allow for necessary changes in a normal year.
In essence, this amounts to 1 extra day of planning. Students usually only attend briefly the first day to allow for all the necessary changes in a normal year. #bced #notimpressed #SafeSeptemberBC https://t.co/Q4DllYgPG3
— Victoria Teachers (@gvta) August 12, 2020