Based on guidance from British Columbia's Office of the Provincial Health Officer, K-12 students will no longer be grouped into cohorts this September, as research indicates schools are not significant sources of COVID-19 transmission.

Vancouver Coastal Health found 92 percent of school-associated cases of COVID-19 were acquired from outside of the school environment during the 2020-2021 school year. In Fraser Health, 87 percent of school-associated cases were acquired through community/household transmission, not from the school setting.

There are approximately 1,900 K-12 schools in B.C. To date, 40 schools have closed temporarily for a short period during this school year, which has resulted in schools being open and safe 99.998 percent of total school days.

“B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions that has kept schools open all year despite the pandemic, thanks to the enormous collective efforts of everyone in the K-12 education system, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to them all,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We will continue to work with the experts in the provincial health office and our provincial K-12 education steering committee throughout the summer to finalize plans and guidelines to ensure students and staff are safe for the next school year.”

The B.C. government praised its educators, staff and administrators for working tirelessly to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic and support the health, well-being and learning of students.

“This was a very different school year for everyone, and school communities have done an exemplary job adapting to the challenges we all faced,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer. “Now, as we transition to a new phase and continue with immunizations throughout the province, students and educators can look forward to returning to a school environment that will be much closer to what they are accustomed to.”

The province expects all eligible residents to be offered both vaccination doses by September, pending vaccine availability. More than 50 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 years old in B.C. have received their first vaccine dose.

According to recent data from B.C.'s Centre for Disease Control, case rates are declining in all health regions, with positivity rates below 10 percent for each age demographic. The 15-19 age demographic had the highest positivity rate in the province at 8.8 percent.

Seventy percent of B.C. residents 12 and older received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those ages 12-19 represent the lowest coverage, exceeding 50 percent.

New hospitalizations also continue to decline and are low for individuals under 40 years. Recent deaths remain stable and low, too, with COVID-19 fatalities mostly among individuals over 60 years. There have been no deaths among the age 12-19 demographic in 2021.

As part of the return to school in September 2021, students can learn full-time in classrooms. However, online learning programs will remain available for students.

Rapid response teams, which have been in place since February in each of the five health authority regions, will continue in the fall. The teams will focus on supporting recovery efforts in schools by focusing on academic, socio-emotional and mental health. They will also continue to provide streamlined communications at the local level to share information, support the consistent practice of, and update, where necessary, the K-12 health and safety guidelines.

“Boards of education across the province have worked hard in every community over the past year to ensure students were able to spend as much time as possible in school," said Stephanie Higginson, president, BC School Trustees Association. "We are thankful that the province chose to prioritize the well-being of our children and youth by keeping B.C. schools open for in-person learning."

Andrea Sinclair, president of BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, said: “This school year has been challenging for us all. We relied on evidence and health and safety plans, and together we kept schools open. We have represented parents and families on the K-12 steering and restart committees and influenced decisions and policies."

She expressed confidence over the "tremendous knowledge and dedication to overcoming adversity" of their education partners and their ability to overcome future challenges while meeting the educational needs of children.

Since January 15, provincial data indicate B.C. residents age 0-19 had 23,940 total cases, 161 hospitalizations - 21 in the ICU - and two deaths for a demographic totaling 1,000,000 people. The median age for hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths due to COVID-19 are 59 years, 59 years, and 65 years respectively.

The province's total COVID-19 cases have decreased in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions since March from 192 to 17 per 100,000 and from 218 to 30 per 100,000, respectively. B.C. has 1,078 active cases, representing an 86 percent decline during that period.