‘Thoughtful, Innovative’: BC Minister of Education Approves Finalized Back to School Plans for 60 Districts

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Education Minister Rob Fleming said on Wednesday he was impressed with the “thoughtful and innovative approach” taken by the province’s 60 school districts to develop their back-to-school plans ready for a pandemic.Across the province, students can expect a gradual restart of classes starting September 10, with measures in place to prevent the widespread transmission of COVID-19.

Wednesday marked the deadline for all 60 school districts in British Columbia to make their back-to-school plans available to parents. Each district should have its local plan posted online.

“There are consequences for children who are out of school for an extended period of time,” Fleming said, saying it was extremely important to bring students back into a school setting.

“Education is a necessity for all children… and it must be provided in the best and safest way possible,” he said.

Fleming’s update comes as parents and teachers voice concerns about children being sent back to school during the pandemic. The BC Teachers’ Federation called for smaller classes and stricter regulations on face masks to protect children and adults from COVID-19.

“We’re going to stay flexible,” Fleming said, adding that many districts are adding options that weren’t possible a few months ago.

Plans reflect the needs of each district, says minister

Central to the province’s guidelines, released on July 29, is a plan to place students in learning groups of 60 to 120 children that will allow social interaction while limiting potential exposure to the novel coronavirus and by simplifying the contact tracing process.

One of these cohorts might include, for example, two classes from an elementary class to elementary school who have lunch together and share recess, or a group of high school students who take the same lessons.

Face masks will be needed in high traffic areas like hallways and buses, but not in classrooms.

Each district’s plan follows these basic principles, but the details of each plan will depend on the student body, type of building / facilities available, and course offerings.

“It will be different in different parts of the province. It’s always like that. That’s the great diversity of education in British Columbia, ”said Fleming.

“All districts will have guaranteed funding and funding flexibility to be able to continue serving communities. “

A physical distance sign is pictured in the hallway of Bridgeview Elementary in Surrey, BC on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Fleming says all elementary and middle schools will have access to full-time classroom education in accordance with public health measures. High schools with a larger population will offer a mix of classroom and distance learning.

The vast majority of school districts are moving to a quarterly system, in which students receive two classes per term, to provide greater choice for students and to reduce physical contact between staff and students. However, some school districts are moving to an eight-course system – where one course is taught every five weeks.

Some school districts released details of the plan early

In recent days, a number of school districts have already rolled out their plans for September.

British Columbia’s largest school district, Surrey, last week offered an overview of its plans for students in grades 8 and up.

High school students in Grades 10-12 will only have 30 peers in their cohort, while Grades 8 and 9 will have 60 peers.

The school year will run on a quarterly system. Each day will be divided into two blocks, with high school students taking one block in class and the other primarily online, and eighth and ninth grade children taking both blocks in class.

District Superintendent Jordan Tinney said the main goal of the Surrey plan is to keep the size of these cohorts as small as possible.

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