BC students from Grades K-12 will return to school on Sept. 8, 2020, with full-time in-class learning, in Stage 2 mode. (Note the school’s system rates directly opposite to the re-opening phases with 1 to 4 where “4” is a return to normal; the school’s stages go from 5 to 1, where “1” is a return to normal.)
In the education Stage 2, students will be organized into “learning groups.” Learning groups are groups of students and staff who remain together throughout the school year and who primarily interact with each other. Learning groups will be no more than 60 people in elementary and middle school and no more than 120 people in secondary school. It will not be necessary for students in a learning group to all be in the same class, but they will be able to interact and connect with each other as a consistent group during breaks, in common areas like the gym, library, or at the playground.
Schools were in Stage 3 in June 2020, with most kids in the classroom part-time. Under enhanced safety protocols, the Province is now moving to Stage 2 of the education plan.
Schools will receive an additional $45.6 million in funding to pay for the increased cleaning of high-contact surfaces, increased number of hand-hygiene stations and the availability of masks upon request, among other safety measures. This funding also includes $3 million to support remote learning, such as technology loans or software to support students with disabilities or complex needs.
More updated health and safety measures include:
- Increased cleaning of high-contact surfaces like door knobs, keyboards, desks and chairs; increased hand hygiene with all students, staff and visitors being required to clean their hands before boarding school buses and entering school buildings, before and after eating, using the washroom and using playground equipment.
- School districts may also install transparent barriers for people who have more contact with others, such as front desk staff, bus drivers or food services staff, where appropriate.
- Older students and staff may use masks in situations where the person is interacting outside their learning group and cannot maintain physical distance for an extended period of time. This includes riding the bus to school where a student may be sitting next to a person outside of their household or learning group. These masks will be available upon request.
- If students or staff are mixing outside their learning group for electives, extracurricular activities, sports or social clubs, they will need to maintain physical distancing of two metres, while younger students will be encouraged to minimize physical contact.
- If space is available, students should have their own seat or sit with family members on school buses.
- Extracurricular activities in middle and secondary schools, including sports, arts or special interest clubs can occur if physical distance can be maintained between members of different learning groups and reduced physical contact can be practised by those within the same learning group.
- All students and staff who have travelled outside of Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days under both provincial and federal orders. This includes students who are attending school from abroad.
Staff and students (or their parents/guardians) must also assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to return home.
The ministry is developing operational guidelines that will further assist school districts and independent schools with their planning for September. An education steering committee including teachers, parents, Indigenous rightsholders, support staff, principals and vice-principals, school trustees and the public health sector has also been established to identify best practices and find solutions to potential issues.
Families will hear from their school district or independent school throughout the summer with updated health and safety guidelines for elementary, middle and secondary schools, as well as learning groups, schedules, enrolment and registration information with the final details being submitted to the ministry and posted online by the districts on Aug. 26, 2020.