The province has announced a gradual restart plan for schools to reopen during the week of Sept. 8-11, with students expected to head back to class for orientation by Thursday, Sept. 10.
The announcement gives School District 43 schools a little more time to get their COVID-19 protocols in place for a full re-opening of schools.
And how things will look will be much different than earlier in the year, the minister of education noted.
"Schools are going to look different in September," stated Rob Fleming, minister of education in a press release issued Wednesday morning. "Staff, students and parents need time to get familiar with all the new health and safety procedures that are designed to keep them safe and confident in their school settings."
The gradual restart plan says students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by Sept. 10 and will use their orientation time to get familiar with classrooms that will look different than they did before the pandemic. Students will be assigned to their class, find out who is in their learning group, practise their new routines and familiarize themselves with how to safely move from the class to outdoor and common areas of the school.
Starting Sept. 8, all staff will meet with their school's joint health and safety committee to receive instructions about how the updated guidelines, co-developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer, will work in their school. This will also allow time for educators and staff to adjust to their new routines, finalize plans for learning groups, review health and safety protocols, and confirm lesson plans that align with the new normal in schools.
To help with planning, school districts were given readiness check lists on Monday, Aug. 10, to ensure they are updating their health and safety plans and considering, communicating and consulting with their unions, Indigenous rightsholders, staff and families in their local communities.
They will also need to ensure their plans address equity and inclusion of children who require additional support in school.
Meanwhile, a restart steering committee and working groups of education partners and health groups are working on health and safety plans for teachers, staff and students and creating detailed operational guidelines, which will be available by Monday, Aug. 17.
Guidelines will include information on:
• implementing the updated health and safety protocols;
• ensuring kids who require extra support are prioritized and have the services they need;
• supporting the mental health and wellness of students who may be experiencing additional challenges because of the pandemic;
• ensuring fewer contacts and a safe workplace for those who interact with more than one learning group — such as specialists, teachers on call, educational assistants, cafeteria staff or bus drivers;
• supporting hybrid instruction with a blend of in-person learning and remote learning for dense urban secondary schools with large student populations;
• minimizing physical contact within learning groups; and
• ensuring before- and after-school child care on school grounds allows kids to stay within their learning groups as much as possible.
Fleming has also been meeting regularly with the presidents of the BC Teachers' Federation, CUPE, B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the B.C. School Trustees Association, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Métis Nation BC, the B.C. Principals and Vice Principals Association and BC Association of School Business Officials, according to the statement.
SD43 families will hear more about plans for school re-opening by Aug. 26, which is when they are supposed to be made public.