(Education Minister Rob Fleming speaking outside Monterey Middle School in Oak Bay on June 2/BC Gov News)

Students in British Columbia will return to classrooms two days later than originally planned, on September 10.

In an announcement Wednesday morning, the B.C. Ministry of Education stated that the province will allow more time for teachers and students to familiarize themselves with new health guidelines and processes put in place to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.

According to the ministry, students will undergo an orientation process when they return to school on September 10—less than a month from today.

“Schools are going to look different in September,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, in a statement.

“Staff, students and parents need time to get familiar with all the new health and safety procedures that are designed to keep them safe and confident in their school settings.”

During their orientation, students will be assigned to their class, find out who is in their pod or learning group, practice their new routines, and find out how to move safely from their classroom to common areas and outdoors.

As announced earlier, for elementary and middle schools, there will be 60 people in each learning, while in secondary school, there will be a maximum of 120 people in each pod.

Teachers and school staff, on the other hand, will be going back to classrooms on September 8.

According to the Ministry, they will meet with their school’s joint health and safety committee to go over how guidelines developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer will work at their school.

The province’s K-12 education restart steering committee and working groups comprised of education and health experts are working to develop detailed operational guidelines for schools.

These will be available by August 17 and include guidance on the following:

  • implementing the updated health and safety protocols;
  • ensuring kids who require extra support are prioritized and have the services they need;
  • supporting the mental health and wellness of students who may be experiencing additional challenges because of the pandemic;
  • ensuring fewer contacts and a safe workplace for those who interact with more than one learning group—such as specialists, teachers on call, educational assistants, cafeteria staff or bus drivers;
  • supporting hybrid instruction with a blend of in-person learning and remote learning for dense urban secondary schools with large student populations;
  • minimizing physical contact within learning groups; and
  • ensuring before- and after-school child care on school grounds allows kids to stay within their learning groups as much as possible.

In a recent online survey conducted by Canada’s largest polling and marketing research firm, Leger, it was found that just 40 per cent of B.C. parents and guardians are planning on sending their children back to classrooms this fall.

48 per cent said they have not yet made up their minds about what to do with their K-12 aged kids, and just 12 per cent said they will keep them at home.

Meanwhile, on a national scale, 59 per cent of Canadians say they will send their kids to school, 18 per cent will keep them at home, while 23 per cent have not yet decided.