August 20, 2020
Dear First Nation Schools and Communities,
The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA) have developed a new resource, First Nation Schools Reopening Considerations and Template, to support BC First Nations that decide to partially or fully reopen their school facilities for the 2020/2021 school year. This document contains important health and safety considerations related to school operations as well as a planning template that may be used by First Nations while working toward their school’s reopening.
This resource was updated on September 25, 2020 to reflect updates to the available public health guidance which are described here.
FNESC and FNSA fully respect the authority of individual First Nations to make decisions about school operations in the best interests of their students, schools, and communities, and we further recognize that a number of schools will opt to remain fully or partially closed. First Nations are under no obligation to reopen their schools in September. Further, while provincial and non-First Nation independent schools have been directed to re-open on September 10th, First Nation independent schools are exempt from this requirement.
FNESC and FNSA recommend that BC First Nations develop a school reopening plan if they decide to open their school facilities for the 2020/2021 school year, drawing from and applying provincial guidelines and the considerations within this resource to address the unique circumstances of their local community.
The resource is based primarily on available information published in the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 School Settings; WorkSafeBC’s Protocols for K-12 Education; and the BC Ministry of Education’s Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings which should be referred to directly as the authoritative sources of health and safety information when planning for the return to school. Note that these provincial guidelines were established for the public and non-First Nation independent school system, where schools are often larger and include more students than BC First Nation schools. As such, First Nations and First Nation schools may need to adapt these guidelines to reflect their local context. It should also be noted that the available guidelines are intended to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and to facilitate contact tracing, not to eliminate transmission completely.
FNESC and the FNSA will also continue to support First Nations who choose to deliver educational services through a variety of alternative means, including remote/online learning or through a blended in-class/remote model. Further materials are planned for the near future.
Please feel free to contact FNESC and FNSA with your questions. Find the latest updates on our COVID-19 information page.