FILE – An empty hallway is seen at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver,on Sept. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

FILE – An empty hallway is seen at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver,on Sept. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Premier wants parents to have Plan B if COVID-19 disrupts September school plans

Goal is to have elementary, middle school students back in classroom fulltime

If a resurgence of COVID-19 forces a closure of classrooms in the fall, parents are being cautioned by B.C.’s premier to have a backup plan in place.

As it stands, the goal is to have a full return to classrooms for students in elementary and middle schools in September with alternative options for secondary school students.

However, this plan could be foiled if B.C. sees a second wave of the novel coronavirus – a likelihood health officials are not ruling out, backed by how other contagions have transmitted through populations historically.

ALSO READ: A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

While it’s unclear exactly when another wave could occur, the fall and winter seasons already see an increase in respiratory illnesses which could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases.

During a weekly news conference on Thursday (July 23), Horgan told reporters that the province will have more information for parents in the weeks to come and the pandemic is being closely monitored by school administrators and provincial officials.

WATCH: Premier John Horgan takes questions from journalists on July 23, 2020

“My plan is to make sure we get it right, not that we get it done by a certain time,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think it’s unreasonable to ask parents to be patient.

Schools in B.C. shuttered doors in March as daily case counts began to increase, requiring parents to home-school their kids. Many struggled to balance working from home with helping their children finish the school year.

ALSO READ: The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Meanwhile, teachers had to quickly adapt lesson plans to rely on online assignments and virtual teaching.

The province moved to a hybrid model in June, blending voluntary in-classroom and online curriculum.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said earlier this week that officials are looking into safe options in the fall, such as a “cohort” model to meet social distancing requirements.

“Of course, it’s going to be a ‘new normal’ situation, schools will look different,” he said in the legislature on Wednesday.

Mandatory masks unlikely for kids, says B.C.’s top doc

While Fleming suggested that masks could be a safety protocol in classrooms, B.C.’s provincial health officer has said that making face coverings mandatory for young students isn’t likely.

“We know from the evidence around the world that that’s not needed, but that there are other ways – important ways – of being able to learn in classroom for younger children, and children of all ages, that can be done safely,” Henry said in a separate news conference.

“Masks for a long period of time are not recommended by anybody in any situation – we know that’s not what keeps people safe.”

Henry said that keeping a distance of two metres from one another, using barriers for separation and proper hygiene are the best methods to reduce virus spread.

Masks could still be made mandatory for teachers.

Fleming, joined by Henry, is expected to offer a back-to-school update next week.


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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