B.C. Can Safely Reopen Schools in September
Safely reopening B.C. schools should be a priority of the government and the public education system. That’s because:
- Student and staff safety should always come first.
- Students depend on public education for learning and community.
Earlier today the B.C. government announced that, with the start of Phase 3 beginning now, that “a return to full-time in-class learning will happen in September 2020 as part of Phase 3, if it’s safe to do so” (source).
The safe reopening of public schools supports education for students. And because schools are a lifeline of support for many families, the safe reopening of schools in September will be welcome relief for many families.
Apply the Following 1-2-3 Strategies at Once
- #1: Utilize Teachers’ Professional Autonomy
Utilize and strengthen teachers’ professional autonomy so that flexible, student-focused, approaches can be quickly applied across all schools and classrooms. When provided with the right tools, resources, equipment, and other supports, teachers already know how to safely meet student needs.
- #2: Safely Adapt Schools to COVID-19
Adapt schools and classrooms to COVID-19. This can include adapting routines, equipment, density levels, and transitions. Adapting schools and classrooms to the pandemic ensures safety for students and educators alike. Base adaptations on public health recommendations, data, occupational health and safety for educators, and the paramount duty of schools and teachers to keep students safe at school. Professional guidelines for schools can be followed that ensure student safety during the pandemic. (This should include the provision of PPE in schools, including N95 respirator masks and face shields for all teachers and educators.)
- #3: Provide Individual Accommodations – Based on Needs
Provide individual accommodations for students who cannot attend school during COVID-19 who require other accommodations during the pandemic, based on educational or other need. Prioritize access, equity, and supports for vulnerable and equity-seeking students.
This “1-2-3 approach” doesn’t require massive overhauls to the education system – in a time of crisis – and keeps students and staff safe while providing access to public education during the pandemic.
We can do this because it’s what we already know how to do:
- Schools, teachers, and classrooms are already used to protecting student safety and providing accommodations to students on an individual basis.
- Schools can apply local decision making and teachers can continue to respond to the needs of individual students and families.
- This 1-2-3 approach builds on the existing strengths of public education and provides a means to promote equity, access, and safety for all students during the next stage or phase of the pandemic.
Of course, as the government said today, schools will only reopen fully if it is safe to do – for both students and educators alike. That will require good public health policy, data-based decision making, and proper planning by government. Schools will also need resources, equipment, and other preparations. Together, we can safely reopen B.C. schools.