'Education as we know it' unlikely to resume until September: Horgan
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s premier announced on Wednesday that the province likely won't see school "as we know it" return until the fall.
Premier John Horgan made the comments during the province's weekly update on COVID-19, where he also extended B.C.'s state of emergency for two more weeks.
"We don’t anticipate a regular return to education as we know it until into September," Horgan said. "But we do expect a gradual increase in the number of students in classrooms and we're working with all of the stakeholders, whether they be support staff, teachers, administrators, trustees, to make that happen."
In a statement, the ministry of education said that "any form of school reopening" would not take place until provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it's safe to do so, but noted that in-classroom instruction is taking place for children of some essential workers.
"While face-to-face instruction is suspended for the majority of students, schools in the province remain open for some, including children of essential service workers and those that are vulnerable and need more supports," the ministry's statement said.
According to the province, there are about 2,300 children of essential service workers in public schools, and 1,300 students are being supported in independent schools, with districts now being directed to expand in-classroom learning supports for more jobs on the province's essential service worker list.
"We have recently directed districts to open up more spaces to provide those same supports in the classroom to students with special needs and other vulnerable students who may struggle with learning at home," the ministry said.
Minister of Education Rob Fleming held a news conference on Tuesday where he gave an overview of how teaching has continued while students have been at home and opened his remarks by stating he would not be announcing when schools would reopen.
"What we're working on is really focusing on the planning so that if and when we do announce (schools reopening)…we have that right, we have a completed plan," Fleming said Tuesday.
"I think a couple other jurisdictions have put setting a date ahead of establishing and developing a comprehensive and safe plan, and I think that's backwards."
Fleming also said that B.C. would look to New Zealand and Quebec to see what lessons could be learned from them once they reopen their classrooms.
The decision to suspend in-classroom learning was made on March 17, and since then, resources have been made available for students to continue learning at home.
Quebec announced its primary schools will reopen in two weeks, but Fleming emphasized that while B.C. is looking to the future, it isn’t at a point where in-class instruction for everyone can resume.
At Wednesday's news conference, the premier commended Fleming's work, saying he'd been working hard on how parents, students and teachers can start to feel comfortable with a "restart" in kindergarten to Grade 12 classes.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk