(BC Gov Flickr)

Starting June 1, parents can choose to start sending their K-12 children to school on a voluntary basis as the province enters Phase 3 of their reopening plan.

In a joint briefing by Premier Horgan, Minister Rob Fleming, and Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday morning, the government announced that schools can will reopen to anyone who wants to attend in-person classes.

“Rigorous cleaning procedures are in place and all schools will be following guidelines put in place by Dr. Henry and WorkSafe BC,” said Premier Horgan.

See also: B.C. watching places like New Zealand in their approach to resuming in-class instruction in schools

Each individual school district will be required to prepare their own plans based on their guidelines and receive approval from WorkSafe BC.

According to Minister Fleming, students who return to classrooms will be attending school part time to reduce the density of children in the classroom, while remote learning will continue for the time they spend at home.

Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 will go to school 50 per cent of the time — such as alternating days — while kids in grades 6 to 12 will go to school about one day a week.

Schools will be using measures like staggering lunch time, recess, and hallway flow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in common areas.

The province will also install driver doors for protection on school buses, and implement policies like one student per seat (unless they’re from the same household) to minimize contact and risk on buses.

Individual schools, whether public, private, or First Nations, are creating their own individual schedules for in-class instruction and bus transportation, and will be contacting families with this information by May 22.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to contact the principals of their schools if they have not heard from school leaders by that date.

“Already more than 5,000 students have safely returned to school,” said Minister Fleming. “These are children of essential service workers and those who need extra support.”

All schools will need to follow the strict health and safety guidelines put in place by Dr. Bonnie Henry and the BCCDC. These include the requirement for everyone to clean their hands upon entering the school building.

Staff, students, and parents must also do a self assessment daily for symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, or common cold.

While public health officials have assured B.C. residents that the school reopening is being done in a safe way, it’s up to families to choose whether their children will be returning to partial in-class instruction come June 1.

“You have to do what’s right for you and your situation and make those decisions for your family,” adds Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Specific health and safety guidelines for schools before the return to partial in-class instruction are available at this website.

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