British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

The province would not send students back into classrooms if there was an “overwhelming risk” of COVID-19 transmission, Premier John Horgan told reporters Thursday (Aug. 6).

The premier was peppered with questions during a press conference about the new Surrey hospital.

Students are expected to return to school full time after the Labour Day weekend. They will be split up into “learning groups,” which will consist of 60 students for the youngest kids and up to 120 for the oldest ones. Schools are exempt from the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

READ MORE: B.C. prepares back-to-school plan for students in COVID-19

READ MORE: B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

“People will disagree, there’s no question about that,” Horgan said.

The plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety. One petition started by parents calling for the return-to-school plan to be option had just under 24,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.

Horgan said he understood that parents were anxious.

“This is the biggest challenge the education community has ever had,” he said, adding that schools will need to be flexible in how each community approaches the return-to-school plan.

“I’m confident… [the school year] will be different when we finish than when we started.”

Earlier this week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she was comfortable returning to school after Labour Day, despite concerns about COVID-19 transmission during the long weekend. Speaking Thursday, Horgan said that “if it takes a few more days to do it, so be it.”

Specifics will “vary from school to school, from district to districts.” Older students are more likely to end up taking some classes online, he added, while younger children are more in need of classroom time.

The province has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days, with 47 new cases announced Wednesday and 146 over the B.C. Day long weekend. In June, only a couple cases emerged in schools, both in teachers that health authorities said caught the virus in non-school settings.

Horgan said the increase was anticipated as B.C. went into Phase 3 and increased interactions. He reminded British Columbians that the pandemic was not over and that physical distancing and mask-wearing was still important.

READ MORE: Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

READ MORE: ‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

There has been no provincial health order to mandate masks in B.C., although health officials have encouraged people to wear them when physical distancing is not possible. There is also no requirement for students or staff to wear masks when school returns in September, even as Alberta announced this week that masks would be mandatory for students in Grade 4 and above, as well as for staff.

However, the province will be giving $45.6 million in funding to schools to ensure adequate and regular cleaning of high-contact services, as well as increasing the number of available hand-hygiene stations and optional masks.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationJohn HorganSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Touchstones Museum has opened up Nelson’s Cold War bunker to the public. The unique exhibit includes artifacts from the 1950s and 60s. Photo: Tyler Harper
Take cover! Cold War bunker opens to public in Nelson

The shelter was built in 1964 in case of nuclear fallout

The rotary club is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Rossland Rotary Club
Revenue drops 50% at Rossland Rotary Club during COVID-19 crisis

The club is adapting by holding modified events, online bingo

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Child care

Sixth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

The Black Jack Ski Club is holding its annual membership drive with an early incentive to get your membership before Nov. 1. Photo: submitted.
Black Jack Ski Club invites new members

An early-bird discount means it’s a good time to get your membership to the Black Jack Ski Club

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read