British Columbia is suspending K-12 classes indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news comes as the province has four deaths and more than 180 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Gatherings of 50 or more people have been banned and health officials are telling people to stay in Canada. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to “stay home” if at all possible.
“This is a crisis situation, there’s no making that sound any better,” Premier John Horgan said.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said all students who are currently on track to move onto the next grade, or to graduate, will do so. Arrangements will also be made to help provide school meals for at-risk students.
“We have followed the direction – daily – of public health officials and scientists in making fact-based decisions when it comes to B.C.’s school system,” Fleming stated.
“Under the direction of the Provincial Health Officer we are directing all schools to immediately suspend in-class instruction until further notice,” he said Tuesday.
“While classroom lessons are suspended it is expected that schools will implement a variety of measures to ensure continued learning for students.”
Teachers, principals, school districts and independent school authorities were asked to begin planning to ensure continuity of learning and Ministry of Education staff has been tasked to work with education partners to coordinate these initiatives.
“We expect school districts and independent schools will develop plans to maintain some level of service for children of people who are performing essential services across our province, like medical health professionals, first responders, pharmacists and critical infrastructure workers,” Fleming said.
“We also know there are vulnerable students who have unique needs; important services like school meal programs, and child care services operating on school grounds that need to be addressed. We expect schools to consider these issues in their planning while we work together through these extraordinary times.”
Every student will receive a final mark, and all students on track to move to the next grade will do so in the fall. For grades 10 and 11 students, graduation assessments will be postponed.
Every student eligible to graduate from Grade 12 this year will graduate, Fleming added.
“The only graduation assessment required for current Grade 12 students is the Grade 10 numeracy assessment. The Ministry of Education will ensure Grade 12 students who have not yet completed this assessment and who are otherwise on track to graduate are able to meet this graduation requirement.”
The province has a launched a new non-medical information line for British Columbians who have questions about COVID-19: 1-888-COVID19. Phone lines are open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and information is available in more than 110 languages.
“These measures are temporary,” Fleming concluded. “But we must act together and act now to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”