B.C. school restart plan: Here's what happens if COVID-19 cases surge
VICTORIA -- The British Columbia government has announced its back-to-school plan for students next month, including what will happen if greater in-class restrictions are required due to a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students will begin returning to classes on Sept. 10 for two days of scheduled health and safety orientation.
Elementary and middle school students will be expected to attend school full-time, while in-class learning for secondary students will vary by school district in accordance with available space, parental input and staff collective agreements.
Cohorts for elementary and middle schools will be capped at 60 students while those for high school will be capped at 120 students. Lunch breaks and recesses will be staggered among learning groups.
There will be daily self-assessments for COVID-19 symptoms for all students and teachers to ensure no one goes to school sick. There will also be enhanced cleaning and hand hygiene protocols in place.
Face masks will be required for middle and secondary students in high-traffic areas like buses and hallways and when physical distancing can't be maintained while outside the student's cohort.
The B.C. Ministry of Education says safe restart plans have been approved for all 60 public school districts in the province.
If increases in COVID-19 transmissions require greater restrictions, the ministry says schools can move to Stage 3 of the province's restart plan, which means a return to a hybrid in-class and online learning model.
The third stage would involve shrinking cohort sizes to 30 students for elementary and middle schools and 60 students for high schools. All schools would operate at a target density of 50 per cent of normal student capacity.
Children of essential workers and those with disabilities would be prioritized for in-class instruction, while in-class learning would be limited for all other students by cohort size and school density targets.
Self-directed and remote learning would once again supplement in-class instruction.
If further restrictions are required, schools could move to the fourth stage of the restart plan.
Stage 4 would limit cohort sizes to 30 students across all grades, with student attendance further limited to 25 per cent of school capacity.
Again, priority would be given to children of essential workers and those requiring greater supports. Self-directed and online learning would be ramped up further to take a greater role in student education.
Finally, the education ministry has outlined a fifth and final stage of its restart plan. This stage, if necessary, would suspend all in-class learning across all grades and move students entirely to online and self-directed education.
The province says it is spending $45.6 million on enhanced cleaning, hand-washing stations, reusable masks and other measures in B.C. schools.
Between now and Sept. 4, school principals will contact families to share their plans and confirm student attendance, according to the province.