Most students will have an extra week off in January after the province announced a phased return to school after the winter break.
The announcement was made on Wednesday, Dec. 29 by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry after B.C. recorded 2,944 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours.
Only children of essential workers and those with special needs will be returning to class on Jan. 3 and 4 along with staff. All other students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will be returning Monday, Jan. 10.
“If that is what the province feels is best for our students then I fully support it,” said Tania Sargent, chair of the District Parent Advisory Council for SD42.
“I understand that there is going to be an inconvenience to some families, and that’s unfortunate. But if this is what is going to hopefully keep our schools safer, then I’m all for it,” she said.
Sargent said despite the high case count, she doesn’t have any concerns about students returning to school in the new year.
With the majority of the students over the age of 12 already being double vaccinated, Sargent feels that will be enough to mitigate the spread of the disease in the schools.
“Even the slow reopening of schools will do a lot to hopefully lessen the chance of administrative closures following the holidays,” she added.
Henry noted the extra week will give health officials time to add additional protocols to reduce crowding and stagger times for recesses.
“Those things that we did early on that we know can help reduce the potential for transmission within the settings,” explained Henry during the press conference.
In addition, she said, school administrators will use the phased approach to make sure classes can be safely held, and to address absenteeism, and program continuity.
Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside said public health and education will use the time to assess the impact of the Omicron variant in communities and in the education system.
Whiteside noted that schools will be reinforcing the importance of daily health checks, holding assemblies and staff-only events virtually when possible, limiting visitors and pausing extra-curricular sports tournaments.
The goal, she added, is to keep classes in-person until the end of the school year.
• With notes from Katya Slepian
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