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B.C. still not sure how in-class learning will look in September

Dr. Henry says the Ministry of Education is working with her office to develop strategies over the next several weeks
It's still unclear what a return to school will look like for B.C.'s k-12 students in September. Photo: School classroom/Shutterstock

By Nicholas Johansen

Thursday, June 25 marked the last day of in-class learning in B.C. schools for the 2019-20 school year, but it's still unclear what a return to school will look like in September.

Part-time in-class learning was made available to students in B.C. at the beginning of June, after it was closed for most students due to the COVID-19 pandemic following spring break. The four weeks of class will be used to help the government figure out what does and doesn't work for next year.

“It became very clear that some of the things that we thought would work well were challenging in certain grades, and we'll have to think through how that looks,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

“We'll be looking at several different scenarios, whether it's everyone back in class all the time and how can we do that, versus hybrid models. And how do we transition between those, should we have an increase in COVID cases, or should we find more information about the effects on children and things like that.”

Dr. Henry says the Ministry of Education is working with her office to develop these strategies over the next several weeks.

On Thursday, Dr. Henry announced that a second teacher in the Fraser Health region has contracted COVID-19, but she said no students were exposed. The teacher was exposed to the virus through a social interaction outside of the school setting.

“It's a cautionary tale, we knew that we would start to see cases when people went back to work,” she said.

One factor that will determine how in-class learning will look come September is how B.C. does in managing new cases over the next two months.

“Much depends on what happens between now and [September] as well, that's why we need to plan for contingencies,” Dr. Bonnie said. “What we would love to see of course is full back to school for everybody, but that is one of the plans.

“We also need to think about how do we ensure that we have safe distances, that we can do it in a way that minimizes the risk of having outbreaks, whether that's cohorting in smaller numbers in classrooms, there's a whole bunch of things that we're looking at.”

She also noted a study from the Netherlands that suggests children don't generally pass COVID-19 onto adults, and rarely pass it along to other children.

Data from the B.C. CDC from Monday shows that 41 children under the age of 10 have contracted COVID-19 in B.C, two of whom were hospitalized. For those between the ages of 10 and 19, 69 have contracted the virus, one of whom ended up in hospital.

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