B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming speaks in the legislature, Feb. 26, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming speaks in the legislature, Feb. 26, 2020. (Hansard TV)

COVID-19: B.C. schools expanding video classes, lending computers

20,000 teachers set up for Zoom, print materials distributed

Virtual dance and band practice are part of the efforts of B.C. school districts to reach students across the province with education help during the COVID-19 pandemic, education officials say.

The province has lent out 23,000 computers and has 20,000 teachers set up with Zoom video conferencing software to provide teaching, Education Minister Rob Fleming said April 28. For rural and remote communities, schools are being used for wifi access and printed materials or flash drives are being distributed.

Fleming said there is no date set for B.C. schools to reopen, and the plan is to “dial up” attendance at schools, starting with offering classroom instruction to essential retail and other workers as well as emergency and health workers with young children.

Hygiene and distancing procedures are being worked out, and a return to classrooms may not be ready before the traditional end of the school year, Fleming said. Summer school options are also being developed as health and education officials track efforts to control the novel coronavirus.

The Zoom program is available to teachers responsible for 275,000 students, and other technologies are being used with the help of ministry information technology staff to reach as far as possible. There are currently 550,000 students in K-12 education in B.C.

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Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, said the challenge for her and other parents is to help their kids at home and not try to be their teachers as well.

“Please, don’t be too hard on yourselves,” Higginson advised parents. “What you do is good enough.”

Fleming said advice and resources continue to be added to B.C.’s Keep Learning website, which has had 300,000 unique views since it was launched at the end of March.


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