Pressed last week to come up with back-to-school plans, Education Minister Rob Fleming said it’s too soon.
A couple weeks earlier, local superintendent Kevin Kaardal said much the same thing. He told parents in a letter he hoped schools could reopen in the fall, stressing the word “hope.”
He could not provide stronger assurances. We saw why in Kelowna on Friday.
This COVID-19 pandemic is still wildly unpredictable and a lot could, and probably will, change between now and the first day of school, which we presume will be Sept. 8.
The pandemic situation seemed to be on the right track in B.C., and doing even better than that in the Interior, but shortly after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix delivered a good-news report at their daily briefing Friday, came news of an outbreak in Kelowna.
It appeared people threw caution to the wind, gathered in large groups around Canada Day, and may have spread the coronavirus.
Specifically, gatherings at Discovery Bay Resort on Sunset Drive July 1-5 and Boyce Gyro Beach Lounge on July 1 may have been COVID spreaders, as well as gatherings downtown and on the waterfront June 25-July 6.
IH said on Friday it had identified eight cases. Six were people from out of town who apparently came to Kelowna to party. These people may also have gone to the Cactus Club restaurant at the yacht club and the Pace Spin Studio.
In a space of about 90 minutes, Kelowna went from COVID-free to a COVID-hotspot. That’s how quickly it can happen.
If the whole pandemic situation can change on such short notice, how can we possibly say in mid-July that schools will be safe for full-time openings in September?
The re-opening of public schools in June went well, but classes weren’t full and children only came to school every couple of days or so.
Many people want to see schools open full-time in September. That’s a big leap when a virus is still ready to pounce.
We need to be cautious. We know what happens when people start being reckless.
On Wednesday, the BC Liberals called for a back-to-school plan. Parents need to know what’s going on, they said.
Fleming replied he’ll have a plan in three weeks. The Liberals then gave him a BC Day deadline.
Fleming’s three weeks is around then, so he’ll give the Liberals a plan roughly when they want it.
When kids were sent home after spring break, so were many of their parents, who were thus able to manage schools not being in
By September, many parents will be back on the job, but they’ve coped with school closures, summer vacations, pro-days and kids’ illnesses before. They can do it again.
Fleming said parents should expect five-day-a-week school in the fall, but they would also be wise to prepare for something less than full-time openings.
Surely, schools will be in session more than they were in June, but five full days a week may be a big gamble, especially if the predicted second wave comes or the curve doesn’t remain flat.
Before getting too firm with the school plans, we need to put a lid on the pandemic through the BC Day long weekend, and work harder on keeping people’s COVID carelessness to a minimum. Then, we can consider back-to-school plans.
Fleming and Kaardal are right. It’s too soon to be firming up plans.
— City Editor Pat Bulmer