Students in British Columbia are expected to return to “near normal” class in September, following more than a year of disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside announced that K-12 students will return to school without the need for cohorts or learning groups in September, while sports and other extracurricular programs are expected to return.
While the majority of students spent this past school year in class, a number of measures were in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. B.C. was one of the few provinces in Canada where in-class instruction was kept open throughout this past school year.
Dr. Bonnie Henry noted there were “quite a lot of exposure events” through the school year, but transmission of the virus in schools was “rare.”
She added that by September, all eligible British Columbians are expected to have been offered both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, so most of the measures in schools won't be necessary.
To date, more than 50 per cent of British Columbians between 12 and 17 have received their first dose of vaccine.
Whiteside said they have not yet made any decisions about mask requirements in schools come September, but that decision will be made later in the summer.
Things like frequent hand washing and staying home when sick will still be important, Dr. Henry added.
Whiteside added the B.C. Government is providing new $25.6 million one-time funding for “pandemic-specific” funding in B.C. Schools. This funding will go towards cleaning and disinfecting, improving ventilation and restocking PPE.
Of this funding, $5 million will go to additional mental health services.