VICTORIA -- B.C.’s Minister of Education Rob Fleming said that the province’s gradual return to school has so far been a success, at a live update Tuesday afternoon.

Fleming says that approximately 60,000 students from across the province returned to classrooms Monday, the first day that schools reopened.

Meanwhile, roughly 90 per cent of all teachers returned to schools this week, with the remaining 10 per cent providing learning support, like focusing on online learning programs.

Fleming says that the staggered return of students this month will help provide an outline for reopening in September.

“We hope that the June restart will be part of something that can help us have an even stronger start in September,” he said.

Currently students in kindergarten through Grade 5 are allowed to be in classrooms for two days per week. Older students are placed on a staggered schedule and are allowed to attend in-person classes one day per week.

Similarly, student arrival and departure times, and recess breaks, have been staggered to reduce the spread of COVID-19 transmission.

When students are not in class, online learning takes place for the remainder of the week.

Fleming estimates that the next school year will share a similar hybrid model.

The minister says that lessons learned from June’s restart, and efforts to boost online learning programs by teachers and the education system in the summer, will lead to a “very robust hybrid learning system in the fall.”

While classrooms have only been open for one day, Fleming says that there has been an increase in interest by families to return to school.

“You do see an increase in parent’s interest when they see schools are safe,” Fleming said.

Even if an influx of students do sign-up to attend class, Fleming says that B.C. schools will continue to limit the number of people in each classroom to abide by physical distancing guidelines.

“Physical distancing has been the most effective part of B.C.’s infection management,” said Fleming.

The education minister stressed that B.C. has created a robust set of health guidelines, in consultation with the provincial health office, for schools to follow to keep students and teachers safe.

He encouraged anyone who was interested in reviewing the guidelines to look through them online

With civil unrest erupting across the United States, Fleming says that many B.C. students have expressed an interest in learning about current events.

Fleming said that on Tuesday, he drafted a letter to the BC Black History Awareness Society to discuss ways of incorporating relevant pieces of the country’s history to school curriculum.  

The B.C. government will provide an update on what the next school year will look like later this summer.