A continuation of face to face learning, Indoor mask wearing and school based safety precautions will be the focus for the Back to School plans as the BC Government outlined this morning its guidance on the Return to School for September.
“We know how excited students and families are about being back in school with extracurricular and sports programs and how important it is for children to be connected to their teachers and friends on a full-time basis. We also know we can do this safely, even as the pandemic continues to present challenges. B.C. was one of the few jurisdictions in Canada to keep schools open and safe last year thanks to the monumental efforts of everyone in the education system. The precautions we are announcing today allow students to continue learning in school with safeguards in place, so they have every opportunity to achieve their best.” -- Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education
As part of their information sharing session of this morning, provincial officials cited a number of studies of the last year that noted of the significant impact on students that remote learning had provided for as well as to how the resumption of in class learning did not result in a significant source of COVID-19 transmission.
With the return of the mask mandate for all K-12 staff, visitors and students in Grades 4 to 12, the new measures will also allow for local health authorities to introduce additional regional health measures to individual schools or School Districts should there be instances where transmission rates are higher.
As well, the Schools will continue to ensure that all mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are maintained and operated to their standards and specifications, with provincial funding to come as part of routine capital programs towards upgrades or replacement of those systems.
Much like the current push towards vaccination in the province, the call for vaccinations for those ages 12 to 19 was a feature of today's announcement with Doctor Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, both spoke to the importance of the vaccination program and the impact on Back to School it will have.
“We know last school year was challenging in many different ways for B.C. students, but they persevered and finished the school year strong,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “While we are encouraged to see rising vaccination rates in most parts of the province, we need every eligible British Columbian, including children and youth aged 12 to 19, to receive vaccinations as they begin the new school year.” -- Doctor Bonnie Henry, Public Health Officer
“As part of your back-to-school preparations, we encourage youth to walk in now to get vaccinated at one of B.C.’s vaccination clinics, or go to a pop-up or mobile or community vaccine event around the province. As students, parents and families prepare and plan for back to school, they can take advantage of the many locations and opportunities to receive a first or second dose. It’s more convenient than ever to get a COVID-19 vaccine.” -- Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s immunization effort.
There was no mention as part of today's information release if the province is considering a vaccine mandate for those who are employed as part of the provincial education system.
On the theme of vaccinations, in Prince Rupert a youth focused vaccination clinic has been scheduled for Wednesday, designed for those who are ages 12-19, it takes place from 9 AM to 3;30 PM at the Northern Health Offices in the Ocean Centre.
The Scope of the Updated COVID-19 guidelines for K-12 schools can be reviewed below:
Today's announcement also noted some of the additional funding that the province has directed towards health and safety initiatives for education.
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