Minister Fleming: Let’s work together to restart schools safely

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B.C.’s education system is a world leader in its pandemic response and preparedness.

On May 15, we announced our Education Restart 5-stage plan, with detailed contingencies for all pandemic scenarios. At the time, we also made the decision to invite more students back to class for the month of June. With strict health and safety measures in place and under the direction of the Provincial Health Officer, elementary students returned to classrooms half-time while middle and secondary students were in class the equivalent of one day per week. The return to the classroom was voluntary and 200,000 students successfully came back to class – giving us important information to prepare for the 2020/21 school year.

Throughout the pandemic, the Ministry of Education has collaborated closely with all stakeholders, we have worked tirelessly to update families, students and educators. Our efforts have helped thousands of students stay connected to their teachers and classmates either in the classroom or through remote learning. In fact, a recent article in MacLean’s magazine highlights the hard work done in B.C. to make our schools safe for kids, noting it has given the rest of Canada a chance to see how schools can operate safely during COVID-19.

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The recent article by MLA Dan Davies criticizing our efforts, preparedness and transparency is disrespectful to education leaders and staff. We offered to brief the member on the Restart Plan but we didn’t hear back, so we encourage MLA Davies and anyone who is invested in B.C. students to visit our website for more information: https://www.gov.bc.ca/k12restartplan

I’ve appointed an education steering committee to help us plan for the September return to classes and I want to publicly thank them for their work thus far. This steering committee, made up of teachers, parents, First Nations communities, support staff, principals and vice-principals, school boards and trustees, as well as public health experts, are working throughout the summer to help the ministry develop protocols that will allow for a safe and strong return to in-class learning in September. 

Here’s what parents, students and families should know about BC’s plan from when we announced the Education Restart 5-Stage plan in May – guided by the expert advice of Dr. Henry and her team, our goal for September remains to have as many students back in the classroom as possible. As we have stated since the start of this pandemic, the health and safety of students and education staff is paramount. 

The next update to our September restart plan will be released to parents in two weeks, and our government will continue to update British Columbians on our efforts and process managing the pandemic. 

Let’s stay in this together. Have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Rob Fleming

Minister of Education

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