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Back-to-school in B.C. won't be as 'near normal' as planned: Dr. Bonnie Henry

Details of B.C.'s back-to-school plans for 2021/22 will be released next week
Schools COVID-19 Classroom
What will B.C.'s classrooms look like in the fall? New guidance from the province on back-to-school will be released next week.

The new school year that’s about to start may not be quite as close to normal as the province had hoped in June.

That was the word from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during questioning from reporters at an Aug. 20 press briefing.

Henry noted the province had issued preliminary guidance in June about the “near normal” that it was expecting to be able to provide for students in the 2021/22 school year.

Since then, however, cases have skyrocketed in B.C., with the Delta variant driving spread around the province – particularly in the hard-hit Central Okanagan and other areas of Interior Health.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation recently launched a petition calling on the province to provide stronger health and safety mandates for schools this fall.

“Things are most definitely not normal right now, so we can’t carry on as if they were,” the petition reads, in part.

Henry acknowledged that the province is “in a different position” now than it was in the spring.

“And yes, we’re re-evaluating (back-to-school plans) with the new evidence that we have around what’s transmitting and where in communities this virus is transmitting,” she said.

Henry said there has been “ongoing consultation” with teachers, parent groups, school staff, superintendents, the Ministry of Education and her own team, adding that more detail will be released next week.

“It is one of those things where this is a fluid situation; we’re learning as we go,” she said. “Every time this virus changes, every time there’s a change in the transmission parameters, we need to reassess and make sure we’re doing the things that are right. So we need to take the time to do that and to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of all the different stakeholder groups.”

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