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

The paraglider pilot, while attempting to free himself, dropped 30 feet and sustained serious injuries as Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue members worked quickly to extract him from the trees. They were able to get him to a waiting ambulance at the end of a nearby forest service road. (Contributed Photo/Dave Harder)
Lower Mainland Search and Rescue saves paraglider in treetop rescue

Pilot tried to self-rescue but sustained serious injuries in a 30-foot fall

An original piece of artwork by Rosie Laponder, was stolen along with various art supplies from Julie Ann’s Art and Custom Framing in Chilliwack on Nov. 28, 2020. (Submitted image)
Thieves steal original artwork, art supplies from Chilliwack store

‘It kind of makes you sick to your stomach,’ says store manager

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
Violent crime spree involving knife ends in arrest in Chilliwack

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Hope Secondary School. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Update: Fourth COVID-19 exposure at Hope Secondary School confirmed

Hope high school the only school in Fraser Cascade to experience multiple exposures

Abbotsford's Jada Klein
Abbotsford’s Jada Klein releases debut EP

Fresh off FVMA win, Robert Bateman grad’s ‘Always, Forever’ album arrives online

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Most Read