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B.C. government funds safe return to K-12 schools

K-12 students and their parents should plan for a near-normal return to school this September.

In the next school year, students will mostly attend in-person, full-time classes, with online learning programs remaining available.

The changes mean that students will no longer be in learning cohorts come September, allowing for a more normal schedule. If B.C. continues on the pace it is with COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates, provincial officials anticipate restrictions on gatherings, extracurricular activities and sports will no longer be required by the time students return to classes.

That said, guidance on mask-wearing has not changed for the time being, and students will still be required to complete daily health checks, stay home when feeling sick and practise diligent hand hygiene.

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B.C. Government officials said the return will be made possible with increased funding to facilitate enhanced safety measures, mental health services, support for First Nations and Métis students and rapid response teams.

“This was a very different school year for everyone, and school communities have done an exemplary job adapting to the challenges we all faced,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “Now, as we transition to a new phase and continue with immunizations throughout the province, students and educators can look forward to returning to a school environment that will be much closer to what they are accustomed to.”

$43.6-million in provincial funding will be used to prepare B.C.’s schools for the new academic year.

“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.”

Where the money is going

$25.6-million from the province’s funding will be used as one-time funding to pay for enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, promoting hand hygiene among students and staff. Money will also be used to improve ventilation and restock personal protective equipment supplies.

This chunk of funding will also go to strengthen the commitments to First Nations and Métis students and provide more mental health supports for students and staff.

The $25.6-million in one-time funding breaks down as follows:

  • $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.

Provincial officials said the rapid response teams, which have been in place since February 2020, will continue in the fall with the remaining $18-million investment. The teams work to support recovery efforts in schools through a focus on academic, socio-emotional and mental health.

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