B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming tours a Greater Victoria school on June 2, 2020, as classes restart amid the pandemic. (Don Craig/Government of B.C.)

B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

B.C. schools were at 30 per cent of expected enrolment for the first day of in-class instruction since classes were cancelled in March.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said that equates to about 60,000 students having returned to class on Monday.

“We hope the June restart is part of something that will let us have an even stronger start in September,” Fleming said during a Tuesday (June 2) press conference.

He reiterated that school remains optional during June.

“A lot of kids have missed in-class instruction and there is really not substitute for that… it’s an option for parents. We respect whatever choice they make,” Fleming said. Families have the option, he noted, to send kids back to school later in the month, as well as to pull them out if they feel conditions are no longer satisfactory.

Attendance figures for Monday ranged from 48 per cent for Grade 6 students to 15 per cent for Grade 12s. Classes remain small in size, with kindergarten to Grade 5 students having a limited to 50 per cent of school capacity, and older students limited to 20 per cent. The younger students are on an alternating or half-time schedule, while older ones are at about one day a week.

About 90 per cent of teachers have returned to in-class instruction across B.C., with the rest given accommodations to work from home. Some teachers have been laid off, Fleming noted, per the rules of the B.C.Teachers’ Federation collective agreement.

“What we expect from most districts… they expect every teacher that is receiving a technical layoff notice today to be rehired and teach domestic, B.C. kids,” he said. “We don’t expect any layoffs will be permanent for B.C. teachers.”

Part of that curriculum will include more learning about Black culture and history in B.C., Fleming said, in light of protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S.

Fleming said every student is expected to self-monitor for symptoms prior to coming to school for the day.

Fleming said a decision about how schooling would look like in the fall would come by mid-August.

“It’s likely that we will have to have a hybrid system again until we have a vaccine, until the pandemic is officially over.”

Speaking at a press conference later on Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she couldn’t predict how the virus would evolve over the summer months.

”We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then,” she said, adding that it was “very likely” that some learning would continue to be remote and online.

“I think it will be different than what we are seeing right now.”

Correction: The initial report said that 30 per cent of B.C. students had returned to classes. In fact, it is 30 per cent of expected enrolment due to COVID-19 physical distancing measures.

READ MORE: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19

READ MORE: B.C.’s top doctor urges caution for protesters amid 24 COVID-19 cases, 1 death in two days


@katslepian

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