Back to school: No cohorts, 'near normal' return to class for B.C. students in the fall
VANCOUVER -- Before classes wrap up for the summer, B.C.'s top doctor and education minister unveiled the province's back-to-school plan for the fall, which they said would be a return to "near normal."
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside announced the plan at a news conference Thursday morning.
"There's no question it was a difficult year," Whiteside said Thursday, reflecting on the past several months.
By September, Whiteside said officials are expecting all students will be back in the classroom for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall.
"Based on guidance from the office of the provincial health officer, students will no longer be group into cohorts or learning groups," Whiteside announced.
"Pending further public health guidance, it's also expected that current restrictions on gatherings, extracurricular activities and sports will be relaxed in time for the new school year and that's good news for everyone."
Whiteside said guidance on mask-wearing in schools will be confirmed later in the summer and "will align with broader provincial direction."
Daily health checks will still likely be required, however, and students and staff will need to stay home when sick.
"We are now in a time of transition where we can safely restart and get some of those important social connections back together," Henry said, crediting vaccination rates for the province's falling daily case counts.
"Our goal in particular for our schools is to get to the point where we can take the same approach that we do with other communicable diseases whether it's influenza or measles where we can manage them on a local basis, on an individual basis without having those broad impacts on society."
In announcing the plan, officials also said the province is giving $43.6 million to support ongoing health-and-safety measures, First Nations and Métis students, mental health services and rapid response teams.
Of that, $25.6 million will be pandemic-specific funding.
Schools are currently scheduled to reopen Sept. 7, the day after Labour Day. That day marks the earliest B.C. could enter Step 4 of its restart plan.
As of Thursday, more than 50 per cent of students aged 12 to 17 have already received one COVID-19 vaccine dose. By September, the province expects all eligible British Columbians will have been offered two doses.