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Return to school to be delayed, says B.C. Education Minister

B.C. youth won’t be returning back to the classroom Sept. 8 as planned amid growing concerns that teachers need more time to prepare for the “new normal” of schooling due to the ongoing pandemic.

Education Minister Rob Fleming told reporters on Tuesday (Aug. 11) that work is still being done to determine exactly when kids will be back in class, according to media reports.

He said it’s important that school staff have at least a few days before kids begin their 2020-21 school year.

More information is expected through a formal announcement in about a week.

During question period earlier in the day, Fleming said that the first day of school will look different than in years past.

“Previously students would come back into class, usually with their previous year’s teachers, and wait a few days for school to be organized for the coming school year,” Fleming. “We can’t do that in a pandemic.”

The education minister first announced the province’s back-to-school plan in mid-July, which entails the return date to follow Labour Day long weekend and include the implementation of “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Students will be assigned to groups of up to 60 for younger grades and 120 for high school, and does mean that some middle and high school students will see some changes to their daily schedules.

In recent weeks, the BC Teachers Federation and vocal parents groups have called for the province to hit the brakes on returning to school, citing concerns on how physical distancing and other safety precautions will work.

“If the plan is rushed or too many questions are left unanswered, it won’t be successful,” the group said in a statement at the time. “Bringing everyone back all at once, even with some version of a cohort model on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend is too much too soon, given the many unanswered questions in today’s announcement.”

‘WE ALL HAVE ANXIETIES’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Other concerns include making masks mandatory – a line of defense B.C.’s top doctor says is not necessary when distancing and hand hygiene is possible – as well as a call for clarity on the idea of what learning cohorts will look like.

”That’s what parents want. They want local, specific information, and I understand that,” Fleming said Tuesday. “They should rest assured that we have the innovative minds of school leadership in every part of the province working on just that now.

ALSO READ: B.C. teacher hopes province will change back-to-school plan in fear of COVID transmission


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Ashley Wadhwani

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