Victoria – Students, families, teachers and staff should plan for a near-normal return to school in September.
The Province is providing $43.6 million to support ongoing health and safety measures, First Nations and Métis students, mental health services, rapid response teams and to address learning impacts to students.
“B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions that has kept schools open all year despite the pandemic, thanks to the enormous collective efforts of everyone in the K-12 education system, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to them all,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We will continue to work with the experts in the provincial health office and our provincial K-12 education steering committee throughout the summer to finalize plans and guidelines to ensure students and staff are safe for the next school year.”
As part of the return to school in September 2021, students can expect to learn in classrooms full time. Similar to any other school year, online learning programs will remain available for students.
Of the $43.6 million, there are $25.6 million in new one-time, pandemic-specific funding to support necessary cleaning and disinfecting, hand hygiene for students and staff, improve ventilation and restock supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE). This funding will also strengthen the commitments to First Nations and Métis students and provide more mental health supports for students and staff.
Plus, money will be available to address learning impacts from the pandemic. Earlier this year, the ministry advised school districts that $5.9 million was available to be allocated to address learning impacts. Today, an additional $12.1 million are provided from the remaining 2020-21 school year operating grant.
Breakdown of the $25.6 million in new one-time funding:
- $14.4 million for health and safety, cleaning and supplies
- $5 million to support First Nations students and build capacity within First Nations Education Steering Committee and Métis Nation BC
- $5 million for mental health services
- $1.2 million for independent schools
Based on guidance from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, students will no longer be grouped into cohorts this September. Research has shown schools were not significant sources of COVID-19 transmission, and with high vaccination rates throughout B.C., these measures will no longer be necessary. This will allow normal timetabling. Should the current encouraging progress continue, it is anticipated the restrictions on gatherings, extracurricular activities and sports will no longer be required when the new school year begins.
Guidance on wearing masks in school settings will be confirmed later this summer and in alignment with broader provincial direction for the fall and winter. Students will continue to be required to complete daily health checks, stay home when feeling sick and practice diligent hand hygiene. Public health teams and school health officers will continue to closely monitor cases of COVID-19 in schools and the community, and will continue to provide support and guidance as schools return in the fall.
The provincial K-12 education steering committee – made up of educators, parents, support workers, school leaders, trustees, representatives from the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and Métis Nation BC, and public health experts – will continue to work with the ministry and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) in the summer to review and finalize school safety plans for the fall. It is expected the current guidelines used in schools over the past year will be replaced by updated guidelines in August 2021.