ON JANUARY 21 Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, issued the first of dozens and dozens of updates on what became known as the coronavirus – COVID-19.
“The BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial and federal authorities are closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory illness linked to a novel coronavirus.”
“… the risk to British Columbians is considered low. Most cases have been reported in Wuhan and other cities in China. But cases have also been reported outside of China, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand …. to date, there have been no cases of illness caused by the coronavirus in British Columbia or elsewhere in Canada … we are watching the situation closely and health-care workers have been asked to be vigilant …”
In the days since nearly 2,500 British Columbians contracted COVID-19, and as of Saturday, 141 people had succumbed to the disease. The good news now, however, is that from May 11 up until this past Saturday, there were only been 97 new cases reported. Additionally, hospitalizations, and those in ICI, are down substantially.
What started as an effort to ‘bend the curve’ and then went on to become a campaign to ‘flatten the curve’ seems to be working. And with that, a province that has seen hundreds of thousands sheltered at home for week after week, things are beginning to open up. B.C.’s Restart Plan is now underway, and with the beginnings of a transition to normalcy, came information on Friday, from Rob Fleming’s Education Ministry, of schools re-opening to optional classes on June 1.
Parents will have the choice of bringing their children back to class on a part-time basis this school year, with the goal of returning to full-time classes in September 2020.
With that announcement, however, at least one parent who spoke with me is asking “Why not keep things they way they are for one or two more months, to really see great changes happen, before we start reintroducing groups (of students) to gather?
“It seems too soon to start reintroducing young groups of people together. We are trending less and less positive cases per day so why are we so quick to jump back into regular tasks?”
Those are good questions, but amongst those and many other concerns, is this wondering … won’t opening up school, for only a month, be more likely to simply disrupt things, rather then help?
Young children will have to be “trained” with new school protocols (and this could be scary to some), and classrooms will not look or function the way they usually do … no sharing, no library, no movement throughout the school, and no sitting next to each other.
The question was put to me … “We just got comfortable with our homeschooling routine, why go to half school, half home schooling?”
And more importantly, at least to me, was this additional comment;
“Kids are not the most hygienic group of people! Keeping on top of this will be exhausting and very difficult for the staff at the schools!”
It makes sense then that the official Opposition Education Critic, Dan Davies, is calling on the provincial government to provide further clarity for parents, teachers and students. He also has this wondering:
“How can we ensure that our teachers will be provided with adequate PPE and that classrooms will have appropriate safety measures in place? What will a curriculum with optional in-class learning look like? This government has had two months to plan for this and, disappointingly, it looks like too much is being left up in the air.”
Education Minister Rob Fraser has indicated that to make sure schools are safe for students and staff, the number of students in school each day will be reduced, and as I have already noted, they’ll be receiving in-class instruction part time.
“School is the place where kids learn how to connect with others and grow together, and it’s incredibly important for students who need extra support to get more time with their teachers and support workers,” said Fleming.
Still, the Liberals Dan Davies has concerns:
“With only nine working days until our kids are scheduled to return to classrooms, the safety of our teachers and students must be our top priority. If our teachers are going to juggle in-class and virtual learning while maintaining proper health and safety measures, government needs to work much more closely with our school districts to ensure that they have the appropriate guidelines and resources to carry out safe and effective learning.”
Davies continued, “What I am hearing from parents, teachers, and support staff is that they have been left to organize an incredibly complex procedure in a short amount of time with little guidance or consultation.”
No wonder then that I’m hearing this refrain … “We all need to take a look at the big picture and keep safe for ourselves and the people around us. We are all somebody’s neighbour.”
Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.