Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send students back to school in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (The Canadian Press)

Plans are being made across the country for how to safely send students back to school in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (The Canadian Press)

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Dr. Bonnie Henry has promised to parents that physical distancing is a priority as kids return to the classroom in September, and that she is confident in B.C.’s school restart plan.

Following last week’s announced plan to have students of all ages returning back to school on Sept. 8, following the Labour Day long weekend, both teachers and some parents have voiced concern.

An online petition started by parents, which had garnered nearly 21,000 signatures as of noon on Wednesday (Aug. 5), has called for the B.C. government to allow the plan to be voluntary for students.

“The government is pressuring our kids to go back to school even though it is still unsafe as COVID-19 cases are increasing consistently on a daily basis, and yet they just keep repeating that ‘this is a robust plan’, in hope for our buy-in,” the petition reads.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Teachers Federation was quick to call for a delay to the start of classes citing a need for more time so teachers can plan, as well as transmission risks.

On Tuesday, during a news conference, Henry reiterated that the plan for students is breaking new ground amid an unprecedented pandemic but that the framework is backed by collaboration with school officials and parent groups with safety top of mind.

“I think this speaks to people’s anxieties – and we all have anxieties,” the provincial health officer said.

“We are learning as we go with this virus, but we also know that there are important things children can only get from being in classroom settings.”

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

Part of the plan includes that students will be organized into “learning groups,” made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission. The groups will be up to 60 students within younger grades and 120 for high school. Some middle and high school students will see some changes to their daily schedules.

Staff and students will also be required to assess themselves daily for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, they will be told to stay home.

Henry told reporters that students will be prevented from “mixing and mingling” and desks will be organized to maintain physical distancing.

Earlier this week, Alberta and Ontario officials announced masks will be mandatory in schools – a decision Henry said she has no intention of making in this province.

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

Amid the uncertainty, Henry reiterated that students being able to socialize safely with friends and experience some normalcy in the fall is integral for their mental well-being and education.

“We need to be able to give children the instructions, the class, the type of teaching that they need in those settings, as well,” she said.

“It is finding that balance of making sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce that risk – knowing that this virus is going to be with us and we need to find a way to live with it – and still have those absolutely critical learning opportunities for children.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle Class Prosperity, speaks with North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold during a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce breakfast Monday, March 2 at Eatology. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Despite $381.6 B deficit, better days are coming: Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity

“We want Canadians to know that we’ve got their backs”

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dine out to help the Westside Salvation Army

This Dec. 3 be sure to visit participating restaurants in West Kelowna and Peachland

Mayor Colin Basran at the announcement of the 2021 Tim Horton’s Brier to be hosted in Kelowna on Nov. 21. (Contributed)
Tim Hortons Brier not coming to Kelowna

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Curling Canada to move to hub model, similar to the NHL playoffs

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

Brent Ross poses with his dog Jack who died over the weekend after asphyxiating on a ball. Ross hopes his experience serves as a cautionary tale to other dog owners. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm man warns others after dog dies from choking on a ball

Brent Ross grieving the sudden loss of Jack, a healthy, seven-year-old chocolate lab

This year’s Candlelight Vigil, United Against Violence Against Women, on Dec. 6, 2020 will not be in person at the campuses of Okanagan College due to COVID-19, but people will be able to gather online to watch a video presentation and light a candle in remembrance. (Image contributed)
Violence against women in North Okanagan-Shuswap to be remembered online

Participants in virtual vigil Dec. 6 asked to light a candle and post photo on social media

An Enderby restaurant and pub has been shut down since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub shuts down after guest reportedly tests positive for COVID-19

The Howard Johnson hotel, restaurant and pub has been closed since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29

Robert Gibson, born November 24, 2020 is in BC Children’s Hospital. Photo contributed
Princeton baby fights for his life, with parents at his side

A Go Fund Me campaign has been started to help family with expenses

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grapevine Optical was the victim of an early morning break and enter Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Crime Stoppers Okanagan / Facebook)
Collection of designer sunglasses stolen from South Okanagan eye-wear shop

Crime Stoppers is seeking the identity of two male suspects

Most Read