Students in public and private elementary and secondary schools in Kamloops and throughout B.C. will be able to return to classes as of June 1 on a part-time basis, with parents deciding whether their children will attend or continue to learn from home via online platforms.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said on Friday that schools will look “significantly different” than they did pre-pandemic, with significant health and safety standards in place.
Students stopped attending classes on March 17. The school year will end at its regular dates, with no extension into the summer.
More than 5,000 students are already in various classes, children of essential-services workers and children with special needs. In Kamloops, Pacific Way and Lloyd George elementary schools are now being used to teach children of essential-service workers.
Fleming said students from kindergarten to Grade 5 will attend class halt-time, perhaps two or three days per week, with student populations in schools at 50 per cent of normal. Students in grades 6 to 12 will attend one day per week, with no more than 20 per cent of normal grades 6 to 12 populations in schools at one time.
Fleming said schools will be “rigorously cleaned” and will have more hand-sanitizing stations. He said staff will work to reduce student gatherings and remind kids of the need to practise physical distancing.
Drop-off and pick-up of kids and recess and lunch will be staggered, while school buses will see one student per seat (unless students are from the same home), along with a Plexiglass barrier protecting drivers.
“It’s going to be strict,” Fleming said of back to school measures. “It needs to be.”
Fleming said how teachers deal with in-class and remote learning is still being worked out with the BC Teachers’ Union and individual districts.
He added that school districts will determine scheduling for classes and transportation arrangements.
Parents are expected to receive detailed information from their children's schools by May 22.
The return to school plan:
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, including:
• desks spaced apart and avoiding groups or gatherings of students in hallways or other common areas;
• regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces like 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 their 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.
The plan for child care:
Many child-care centres have continued to operate safely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support essential-service workers in communities across B.C.
Updated health and safety guidelines for child-care settings released by the provincial health officer will support child-care centres that were closed to reopen safely as they are able.
New provincial health officer's guidelines for safely providing child care include:
• 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/or 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. There is no role for screening children or staff for specific symptoms, checking temperatures or COVID-19 testing. Such activities are reserved for health-care professionals.
• having children outside often, including for learning activities, snack time and play time.
• 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 (e.g., stuffies) if they are clean and can be laundered at the end of each day.
These guidelines will be complemented by WorkSafeBC guidelines for child-care providers, which will be released next week.