VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While students can opt to return part-time to B.C. classrooms next month, the province has outlined health and safety guidelines for schools and child care centres.
Both are encouraged to be flexible when it comes to arrangements for parents of school-age students.
“As we look to create our new normal, reopening our schools to in-class learning is an important step,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. provincial health officer. “It will look different, but will be done in a way that is safe for everyone. I want to assure all the staff, students, and families that we will face the challenges that come with this transition together – and we will do it in a measured and thoughtful way.”
She said measures won’t be in place forever.
“But they are for the foreseeable future, and certainly for the month of June, and this is how we are going to build our confidence that we can do this together.”
Will need to limit number of kids in schools –
most will go only part time, staggering days, lunch and recess times
For K-5 kids will go half time – 50% or less of normal at a time
6-12 likely only a day a week in June – less 20% than before #bcpoli #covid19 @NEWS1130
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) May 15, 2020
Classes will resume June 1, but students from Kindergarten to Grade 5 will only attend half-time, meaning two to three days a week. Schools for Grades 6-12 students will be at 20-per-cent capacity, meaning one day a week.
All boards of education and independent school authorities will be required to implement strict provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC health and safety measures to reduce the risk COVID-19 transmission.
Guidelines for schools
Measures for schools:
- desks spaced apart and avoiding groups or gatherings of students in hallways or other common areas;
- regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces, such as door knobs, toilet seats, keyboards and desks at least twice a day, and cleaning the school building at least once a day;
- students, educators and staff will be required to clean their hands before entering school property, and there will be more hand-sanitizing and cleaning stations available, with well-stocked supplies;
- staggered drop-offs, lunch and recess breaks, with increased outside time;
- staff and students (or parents, guardians) must 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 be returned home;
- one student per seat on school buses, unless children are from the same house, with Plexiglass separating the bus driver from students;
- students or employees should not share food or personal items like phones, pens or pencils.
Clear protocols also need to be in place for the safe and healthy handling of all food items, says the province.
Guidelines for child care centres
The province also released new provincial health guidelines for safely providing child care:
- maintaining the physical space requirements set out in the Child Care Licensing Regulation;
- Child care centres have sufficient space to support physical distancing between staff without reducing the number of children in care at any one time;
- organizing children into smaller groups and spreading children out to minimize direct physical contact;
- cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least twice a day;
- general cleaning of the centre should occur at least once a day with common cleaning and disinfectant products;
- setting up hand-hygiene stations at the entrance, so children can clean their hands when they enter;
- if a sink with soap and water is not available, provide hand sanitizer, but keep out of children’s reach and supervise its use.
- additional hand-hygiene opportunities should be built into the daily schedule;
- staggering the timings of pickup and drop-off;
- a daily check at drop-off may be conducted by asking parents and caregivers to confirm their child does not have symptoms of common cold, influenza, COVID-19 or other respiratory disease;
- having children outside often, including for learning activities, snack time and playtime;
- ensuring each child has their own individual meal or snack;
- reusable utensils must be cleaned and sanitized after each use;
- asking parents and caregivers to only bring personal comfort items (such as stuffed animals) if they are clean and can be laundered at the end of each day.
There is no role for screening children or staff for specific symptoms, checking temperatures or COVID-19 testing, says the province.
“Such activities are reserved for health-care professionals.”
Schools will contact families to make arrangements for children to return to in-class instruction.
If parents have not heard from their schools by May 22, they are asked to contact their principal.
According to the province, science and research show that children under 19 are at low risk of transmitting COVID-19 and suspending schools only has modest impacts in minimizing the spread of the virus.