Students in B.C. will return to in-class learning September 2020. B.C.’s plan includes new health and safety measures, increased funding for protective equipment like masks and new learning groups to help keep everyone safe.

Last updated: August 26, 2020 

What Parents Need to Know

Our Plan

B.C.’s Back to School Plan is built on three core principles to keep everyone safe. 

1. New health and safety measures

2. Increased funding to keep schools safe and clean

3. Learning groups to help reduce transmission

Health & Safety Measures

Special safety measures help create safe schools and reduce the spread of COVID-19. These extra layers of protection measures work well in schools because they’re controlled environments that have:

Health Guidelines

Wearing a mask

Practicing physical distancing

Riding a school bus

Using shared items

Practicing hand hygiene

Cleaning the school

Installing physical barriers

Controlling traffic flow

Resource posters

Print-ready posters to promote important safety practices:

Increased Funding

An additional $45.6 million will help schools implement new health and safety measures.

The investment includes: 

Learning Groups

A learning group is a group of students and staff who remain together throughout the school quarter, semester or year and who primarily interact with each other. Learning groups were recommended by the Provincial Health Officer to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. 

For example, a learning group could be made up of:

Learning groups can also include staff, like:

Learning groups provide a range of benefits for students including more in-class learning time, increased peer interaction and support, and decreased feelings of isolation.

Why Use Learning Groups?

Compared to other public settings, schools have a relatively consistent set of people accessing the building. Learning groups further reduce the number of interactions between students and staff.

Learning group sizes

Learning groups are smallest in elementary and middle schools because it is more challenging for younger students to maintain physical distance.

Students in secondary school are better able to minimize physical contact, practice hand hygiene and recognize if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

The PHO order on mass gatherings does not apply to schools, as events are defined in the order as an irregular gathering, like a party or celebration.

Learning group examples

The following examples are for illustrative purposes only. Actual configurations of learning groups will be designed by school districts and independent schools to meet local needs and other considerations in alignment with health and safety measures to protect students and school staff.

Elementary schools

Middle schools

Secondary schools

Orientation Week

Schools will be in touch with parents with further details about the return to school. To ensure all schools are ready to welcome students into classrooms for the week of September 8-11, 2020, there will be a gradual restart. This gives students and staff extra time to learn about the new health and safety measures in their school and classroom.

September 7

Labour Day, schools are closed. 

September 8 and 9

Starting September 8, all staff will meet with their school’s joint health and safety committee to receive instruction on how the updated BCCDC guidelines will work in their school. This time allows teachers and staff to: 

September 10 and 11

Students will return to school by September 10 for orientation. Check with your school district to confirm details.

Students can get familiar with classrooms that will look different than they did before the pandemic. During orientation, students will: 

COVID-19 Science & Children

According to current worldwide data, COVID-19 has a very low infection rate in people 19 years old and under, and especially low in children under the age of 10.

Serological tests have confirmed that in B.C., less than 1% of all children tested have been COVID-19 positive.

Studies show that most COVID-19 cases in children originate from symptomatic adult family members, not from peers. Even in family bubbles, adults appear to be the primary spreaders of the virus.

Children who do test positive for COVID-19 usually have milder symptoms, such as a low-grade fever, dry cough, and gastrointestinal issues.

What has B.C. learned from the reopening of schools in other places?

Due to widespread, worldwide school closures, there are few studies on the effects of COVID-19 transmission in school settings.

In places that have resumed in-class instruction, children do not appear to be the primary spreaders of COVID-19. 

In schools where there were confirmed cases, there was typically minimal spreading beyond the initial case. 

Studies have shown that closing schools and child care facilities has significant negative mental health and socioeconomic impacts on vulnerable children.

COVID-19 Protocols

Stay Home When Sick

The BCCDC guidelines for schools are firm. If a student, staff member or any other adult has any symptoms of a cold, influenza, COVID-19, or any other infectious respiratory disease, they must not enter the school.

Students, staff members and any other adult must stay home and self-isolate if they have: 

This includes the children of essential service workers.

Daily Health Screening

Parent & caregiver responsibilities

Daily screenings start at home. Ask these questions:

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you must keep your child at home, self-isolate, and seek care from a health-care provider.

School administration responsibilities

Ensure staff and other adults know they are responsible for assessing themselves daily for symptoms prior to entering the school.

Clearly communicate with parents and caregivers that they are responsible for assessing their children daily before sending them to school.

Testing Students Before a Return to School

At this time, it is recommended that only people with symptoms or people otherwise identified by a health professional should be tested for COVID-19. This includes children.

Testing can also result in false positive and false negatives for the following groups:

What if someone in my household or bubble has COVID-19 symptoms?

What if my child has allergies?

Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in a Learning Group or at School

If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school, protocols are in place.

You will be notified if your child has been in contact with a COVID-positive person. If that happens, your child is required to self-isolate.

Education Requirements

In-Class Instruction

There is no substitute for in-class instruction. It provides students with face-to-face teacher-led learning, peer engagement, supports social and emotional development and decreases feelings of isolation. 

School also provides many students access to programs and services they can’t get at home and is integral to their overall health. 

School districts will contact all families in their school community to share their safety plan and confirm if they plan to have their child attend classes in September or require an alternative learning option.

The Ministry has given school districts the flexibility and certainty to find options that work for families.

Other Options

Every September, parents have options for their child’s education.

Parents should talk to their school district as soon as possible about their options.

Online and distributed learning

Both public and independent distributed learning schools offer distributed/online classes. Students in kindergarten to grade 7 must take a full course load at one school, while students in grades 8 to 12 may enrol in courses in a number of different distributed learning schools at one time.

There are 48 school districts with 56 public schools offering distributed learning courses. Sixteen independent schools are currently offering distributed learning courses.

Discover distributed learning


Homeschooling is typically led by a family member who delivers an educational program to a child at home.

Note: Homeschoolers are not eligible to receive a British Columbia Dogwood Graduation Certificate.

Discover homeschooling

Homebound education

Homebound education services allows students to continue their education program if they are absent from class during the school year because of injury, illness, surgery, pregnancy or mental health reasons. 

For the 2020/21 school year, medical reasons related to COVID-19 are eligible, including a family or household member that is medically compromised and susceptible to COVID-19. 

To access homebound education services, parents and caregivers must contact their school. 

Supporting Additional Needs

Students with Complex Medical Conditions 

Parents of students who are immune-compromised or have underlying medical conditions are encouraged to consult with their health care provider to determine their level of risk regarding return to school.

If a medical professional determines that a student cannot attend school due to their health risks, the school district will work with the family to review alternative learning options for the student.

Review COVID-19 and children with immune suppression information from the BCCDC.

Students with Disabilities, Diverse Abilities

Students with disabilities, diverse abilities or those who require additional supports will have access to and receive the same supports and services they had prior to the pandemic.

Students who require additional supports will be identified through a needs assessment. School districts and independent school authorities will then develop continuity of learning plans for those students to ensure equity of access to learning.

International Students

We continue to support international students coming to B.C. to study.

All students who have travelled outside of Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days under both provincial and federal orders. This includes students who are attending school from abroad.

Students will return to the classroom by September 10, 2020. International students should arrive in B.C. no later than August 26, 2020 to complete their 14-day self-isolation. This can be done with a host family or with the help of federal government officials. 

Indigenous Students

The Ministry fully respects the jurisdiction of First Nations and their right to make their own decisions on re-opening First Nations schools. Visit the First Nations Schools Association website for the latest updates.

For those Indigenous students that attend public schools, school districts will engage with First Nations and Indigenous peoples as a part of their planning process. 

School boards and independent authorities must ensure Indigenous rightsholders are engaged in meaningful consultation and must work directly with First Nations to develop plans for any First Nations students living on-reserve and attending public school.

In the Classroom

Instruction & Supports 

Curriculum, Assessment & Report Cards

The return to full in-class instruction in September will include the following:

School boards and independent authorities must ensure activities, assignments and assessments are accessible to all students and families, as appropriate for any in-class, remote or blended (hybrid) learning.

School districts must also meet the requirements of British Columbia’s Student Reporting Policy. The policy provides significant flexibility for schools and school districts on the content and format of report cards.

Grad Program

When in-class instruction is being supplemented with self-directed or remote learning, the focus will remain on ensuring students are making progress towards completing their graduation requirements.

Inclusive Education

Students who require more support in school will have full-time, in-class instruction available without any delays.

Outside the Classroom

Recess, Lunch & Break Times 

Students will remain in their learning group during recess, lunch and break times. 

Students can socialize with a friend in a different learning group if they follow these rules.

Elementary schools

Middle and secondary schools

Sports, Clubs & Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities including sports, arts and special interest clubs can only occur if: 

Assemblies, Concerts & Gatherings

Small gatherings can only occur within a learning group.

Assemblies, concerts and other large gatherings like a guest speaker should happen virtually. 

Tournaments, competitions & festivals

All inter-school events including competitions, tournaments and festivals should not occur at this time.

Work Placements & Apprenticeships

School districts and independent school authorities will assess and determine if it is safe for students to remain on work placements and apprenticeships.

School Meal Programs

School districts with existing meal programs will continue to work with community partners to provide meal support to families in need, in alignment with current public health guidelines.

Back to School Plan Examples

While all school districts are following the same strict health and safety guidelines, B.C. is a diverse province and each school district has created a back to school plan based on the needs of their communities.

Large school district (SD 36, Surrey)

Mid-sized school district (SD 63, Saanich)

Smaller school district (SD 48, Sea-to-Sky)

Five Stages Framework

The Five Stage Framework outlines expectations for B.C. elementary, middle and secondary schools for learning during COVID-19

Info for School Districts

School districts and independent school associations are required to submit a Restart Plan before the 2020/21 school year begins

Contact Your School

Have questions? Your school or district is the best place to get help

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