As the first full week of school comes to a close, early attendance numbers show a majority of students are back in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a Ministry of Education survey, more than 85 per cent of K-12 public school students in British Columbia returned for in-class learning.

The ministry says every school is following strict provincial health and safety guidelines, and each district is using additional provincial and federal funding to meet its needs.

School districts and independent schools were surveyed by the ministry to find out what investments they were making, and to date, 44 public school districts and 129 independent schools responded.

Together, these districts hired a total of 1,526 new staff members, including 624 teachers, 73 educational assistants, 542 custodians, and 287 counsellors, bus drivers or administrative staff.

The ministry has also provided funding for 1.5 million non-medical masks, enough for every public-school staff member and student to have at least two masks.

A B.C. company is now making a first-of-its-kind mouth rinse gargle sample collection available for school-aged students who require a COVID-19 test.

This new saline method doesn’t require a health-care professional to collect the sample, and it’s intended to encourage more students to get tested if they have symptoms.