Dear First Nation School Principals and Authorized Representatives,
Earlier today, the BC Government announced that K-12 public and independent schools will resume in-class instruction on a part-time basis beginning June 1st. Families will have the option of whether to send their children to school or continue remote and online learning. The Ministry has indicated that for the health and safety of students, families and staff, the re-opening process will be a gradual one, informed by the recommendations of the Public Health Officer and the guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control.
The Ministry has also confirmed that it fully respects the jurisdiction of First Nations to make decisions regarding First Nations schools, including those certified as Independent. As such, these schools will not be required to obtain exemptions if they decide not to resume or expand in class instruction.
Furthermore, First Nations Schools Association (FNSA) and the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) recognize that individual First Nations, through their local governance structures, will determine the optimal balance of face-to-face and remote learning opportunities provided to their learners. To support that planning process, we are sharing the latest advice from the BC Centre for Disease Control on slowing the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools.
The BCCDC’s Public Health Guidance for K-12 School Settings provides guidance for educators, administrators, and support staff to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and maintain a healthy environment for students, families, and staff. Key infection prevention and control practices are identified, as well as actions to take if a student or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19.
Some First Nations have already determined that their schools will not reopen for in class instruction until September. FNSA and FNESC fully respect the authority of BC First Nations to make these decisions regarding the continued operations of their schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. By sharing this document, it is not our intention to recommend that First Nations re-open their schools or resume in-class instruction as you are best suited to understand and plan for local needs and circumstances.
As soon as possible, we will distribute a further resource including additional information and guidance for those communities that may wish to resume in-class activity.
In the meantime, be kind, be calm and be safe!
Edith Loring-Kuhanga, B. Ed., M. Ed.
President First Nations Schools Association