VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Students are expected to be back in class by Sept. 10, the province has confirmed.
The B.C. government says teachers will return to school on Sept. 8, and that students will be there by Sept. 10 for orientation.
“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,” B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming says.
“It’s important that students, when they go back to a school that looks different, understand what the rules are around safely navigating, getting placed directly into their classroom.”
Q – how is two days enough to prep teachers?@Rob_Fleming the first two days of the orientation arrived at after discussions with stakeholders – it's the time needed to build confidence & familiarity with protocols#bcpoli #covid19 @NEWS1130 #bced
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) August 12, 2020
Teachers and staff are expected to meet with their schools starting on Sept. 8 to discuss updated guidelines for the return to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That time is also meant for teachers and staff to “adjust to their new routines,” as well as finalize plans, review new protocols, “and confirm lesson plans that align with the new normal in schools.”
However, the province has not given a firm date on when students have to be back at school, only saying they will be required to be back in class “by Sept. 10.”
“We have some flexibility built in for school districts … as we do in any non-pandemic year,” Fleming says. “How they structure the first week of school is up to them.”
The decision on when classes resume will be made on a school-by-school basis.
The B.C. government says the goal is to use the orientation period to allow students to “get familiar with classrooms that will look different” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orientation is also when students will find out which learning groups they’ll be in for the year, which classrooms they are being assigned to, and learn how to safely move through common areas.
The orientation week is to ensure parents, students and teachers are comfortable – @Rob_Fleming
For those who still don't want to go back… he says emphasis is on returning to in-class instruction. #bcpoli #covid19 @NEWS1130 #bced
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) August 12, 2020
Fleming emphasized the need for students to return to class since some have been without formal learning programs.
“We fully acknowledge that for many kids, they’ve been outside the classroom for six months. It’s taken a heavy toll on family. It’s taken a heavy toll on the mental health and wellbeing of kids. There is learning loss we’re concerned about,” he says.
“We can’t sacrifice 18 months of learning. We have to learn how to do things safely during this pandemic.”
However, Fleming says some larger secondary schools in urban areas of the province are looking at implementing hybrid models of learning, so a combination of online instruction and in-class teaching.
Guidelines, including health and safety protocols and support for students needing additional support, are expected to be made public by Aug. 17.
But Fleming is suggesting there could be some changes similar to those in June.
“Outdoor education will play a huge role. It did during the June restart,” he says. “There was a lot of outdoor instruction that was happening in schools, so looking at the weather that we might enjoy in September and October, in particular, I know that school leaders are discussing this already.”
B.C. had originally announced last month a return-to-school date of Sept. 8. However, on Tuesday, Flemming announced the beginning of classes would be delayed, saying it was important that “staff have a couple of days” to adjust to changes before welcoming kids back.
The announcement came after B.C. teachers had demanded more time to get ready, saying key issues still needed to be resolved.
Students returned to school on a part-time, voluntary basis in June, but the province reported some challenges with remote learning.