September 8 marks the beginning of the ‘new normal’ school year and the Horgan government is making a one-time investment of $45.6 million dollars.

Universities, like Royal Roads in Colwood, already use a cohort learning model, and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that’s the way of the future for younger students.

“A key aspect of a full return to school is what we’ve created; cohorts, or what we’re calling learning groups that will be created per every school in the province,” said Dr. Henry. “The principle behind these learning groups is to create groups of students and staff who will remain together throughout the school year or term and who primarily interact only with each other.”

Those kids who didn’t physically return to school back in June will be out of school for 175 days when the new school year starts and Education Minister Rob Fleming said it’s imperative to bring back in-class instruction.

“That’s what’s informing our desire to safely restart schools with one hundred percent in-class instruction in elementary and middle schools. Kids thrive when they’re with their teachers and with their peers, it’s vital for the social and academic development and their mental health and wellness,” said Fleming. “The lesson of this pandemic is that we must continually adapt to the latest public health advice and science until we have a vaccine.”

“B.C. will continue to keep a strong focus on science-based decisions as we learn to adjust the delivery of education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association. “Boards of education across the province will utilize updated health and safety measures, created on the advice of the provincial health officer, to ensure that students can continue to receive the social, emotional, and academic supports provided by their community school during this critical time in education.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the cohort learning model will help to limit the spread of COVID19, should positive cases become a reality.

“In the event of a case of COVID19 in the school, the potential for transmission will be limited and the ability for public health to quickly complete contact-tracing will be far easier and far less disruptive,” said Dr. Henry.

Andrea Sinclair, president, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) said, “BCCPAC thanks our dedicated board members who have worked on the different restart committees to ensure equity, inclusion, health, and safety, and educational programming remain at the forefront in the planning for a return to school in September. Parents should feel assured that as things progress and evolve over the coming weeks, the Ministry of Education will be working directly with BCCPAC and our education partners to ensure student safety remains a top priority.”

Fleming said in-class instruction provides many advantages over a hybrid teaching model.

“We do know there is no substitute for in-class learning and I heard that time and time again from parents, that students and teachers when they had the chance to re-connect in June, those in-person connections meant a great deal to students, families, and teachers,” said Fleming.

More than 200,000 students returned to school in June and those that filled out a survey said they felt good about the return.

Staff and students will be required to assess themselves daily for COVID19 symptoms and if anybody has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to self-quarantine.