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Dr. Henry offers more details about B.C.'s 'innovative' back to school plan

"Schools will look different."
Kids in an elementary school classroom.
Kids in an elementary school classroom.

As the school restart draws nearer, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is asking parents to have faith in what the new system will look like. 

School districts will be working to incorporate important innovative measures to ensure children can still receive a well-prepared education while maintaining the required safety procedures.

"They are the foundation and the backstop for all of us," she says.

Reducing the numbers of people allowed on site, staggering start times and recess/lunch breaks, keeping groups small and using masks when appropriate are some of the measures that will be used in schools.

"It may be that two or three classes all start at the same time and have recess at the same time. It doesn't mean that all of those children will be intermingling every day. It means they may go for recess at the same time, but they'll be in different areas of the school yard." 

Outside classrooms will also be considered in efforts to increase ventilation and the capacity for physical distancing. 

Masks will be used in contexts where physical distancing cannot be maintained, but if data on the transmission of COVID-19 in children and use of masks shows a need to adapt, that could change. 

"To think of a young child, 10, 11, 12, sitting all day in a classroom with the mask on is probably not realistic," says Dr. Henry. "There's lots of things that we can do to make those environment safe without requiring somebody to sit with a mask on for long periods of time."

Grandparents involved in the care of a child, such as those who provide before or after-school care, should remain involved in the child's life following the school restart if the family feels it is safe, advised Dr. Henry. 

However, she says although significant work is being done to ensure the safety of children, parents, families and teachers, she acknowledges the fear people may feel about the restart of in-class learning. 

"This anxiety, this fear, this not knowing what it's going to look like in the face of a global pandemic, is perfectly normal. We are all feeling that, and I understand that. 

"Schools will look different. We have to put aside what classes were like in March or even in June, and we learn from what we know about this virus and about how it spreads and about things that we can do around the world."

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