B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming says the province’s back-to-school plan for the COVID-19 pandemic will be presented Wednesday, but it won’t be final until the beginning of the new school year arrives Sept. 8.
Fleming has been criticized in the B.C. legislature for waiting, after other provinces set out their fall education plans. He first set the B.C. announcement for August, then moved it up to July 29, but warns that it won’t be finalized until the fall conditions of the pandemic are known.
“If there is a so-called second wave, or if there are perhaps regional outbreaks just as we plan to move forward with a return to in-class instruction, we have to prepare based on the circumstances of the virus and be able to nimbly move back,” Fleming said Tuesday.
Wednesday’s announcement is designed to “give certainty” for parents about in-class instruction, and conditions will be set out by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. B.C. has an advantage of a partial return to in-class instruction in June, and better control over the spread of the novel coronavirus than most places in North America.
Each of B.C’s 60 school districts will work with revised guidelines up to the day school is set to resume on Sept. 8, Fleming said. Wednesday’s announcement will be an update of the plan released May 15 to end the previous school year, with classroom instruction on alternating days for kindergarten to grade five and one day a week for grades six to 12.
Schools shut in March by a public health order while they were out for spring break, and online or home schooling was improvised for two months before the partial return to class.
B.C. Liberal education critic Dan Davies pressed Fleming in question period Tuesday, asking for assurances that personal protective equipment would be provided for teachers. Fleming said more than 90 per cent of teachers returned to school in June, and those with specific health needs were accommodated.