May 15, 2020

Dear First Nation Community Education Coordinators and FNESC Board,

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 home 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 determine they will not be resuming in class instruction.

Furthermore, the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA) recognize that individual First Nations, through their local planning processes and governance structures, will determine the optimal balance of face-to-face and virtual 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 BC Centre for Disease Control’s Public Health Guidance for K-12 School Settings (updated September 11, 2020) 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.  FNESC and the FNSA 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, appreciating that community and school representatives 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.  

For more information on our COVID-19 response and updates, including resources related to health and hygiene considerations and continuous learning opportunities, please visit www.fnesc.ca/covid19.

Wishing everyone good health.