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

Mackenzie Ashley-Lynn Gilfillan was last seen Jan. 10 in the 45000-block of Menholm Road. (RCMP photo)
RCMP asking for help to find missing Chilliwack woman

Mackenzie Ashley-Lynn Gilfillan was last seen Jan. 10 in the 45000-block of Menholm Road

Chilliwack Chiefs
Chilliwack Chiefs acquire forward Ben Woodhouse from Wellington Dukes

The BCHL club swapped future considerations to the Dukes for the 20-year-old forward

An Abbotsford man was killed in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 3 on Monday, Jan. 18. (Black Press file photo)
Abbotsford man killed in Highway 3 crash near Hedley

Fatality was discovered by passing tow truck driver

(Black Press file photo)
Highway 3 cleared, open after vehicle incident

The road was closed for about three hours earlier on Jan. 18

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

(Realtor.ca)
Rent dropped to 2019 rates across parts of Metro Vancouver in December: Rentals.ca report

Rent costs have declined since May, a trend expected to continue due in part to the COVID pandemic

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read