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B.C. schools to have a staggered re-start in January; essential workers’ kids return first

All K-12 students will be in class as of Jan. 10
Students walk through a corridor at the relocated New Westminster Secondary School, in New Westminster, B.C., on Thursday, October 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Schools across B.C. will re-open for in-person learning in January, but some students won’t return to class until Jan. 10.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday (Dec. 29) that the children of essential workers will return to school next week on Jan. 3 or 4. All other K-12 children will go back to school one week later on Jan. 10.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said that schools will be open for children of health-care workers, along with students with additional needs. She said that the extra time will allow schools to assess the impact of the Omicron variant and put in proactive new safety measures.

Eligible parents who need their children to be in school as of next week should contact their schools, the minister added. A provincial list of essential workers urges schools to prioritize in-person schooling for the children of workers in health care, health services, social services, law enforcement, emergency response and for first responders.

Whiteside said that schools will be reinforcing the importance of daily health checks, holding assemblies and staff-only events virtually when possible, limiting visitors and pausing extra-curricular sports tournaments. The goal, she added, is to keep classes in-person until the end of the school year.

Whiteside said the province has been working with education partners to increase ventilation and filtration in schools. Many groups have called for increase safety measures, such as ramped up vaccinations for younger students, booster shots for teachers and staff, better masks and rapid testing.

Henry said that the notification system will change for positive cases in schools but that parents should not expect the same sort of individualized alerts that they received earlier on in the school year.

“I think we can also be really reassured that with other illness we’ve seen… we know that our classroom settings in particular are safe,” Henry said. “They are not the places that are amplifying this virus.”

Whiteside said that the details will be worked out in the coming days.

Families with sick kids or positive cases will need to be part of the notification process by informing their social contacts themselves.

READ MORE: Nearly 3,000 B.C. COVID-19 cases Wednesday, hospitalization stable


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