Dr. Bonnie Henry said the surge in covid-19 cases on the weekend was "sobering." (Photo: B.C. government.)
Two schools in B.C. have been closed because of covid-19 exposures, Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack and École de l’Anse-au-sable in Kelowna. The first in-school outbreak was earlier declared at the Kelowna school and is now up to 11 cases, Dr. Henry said.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the schools are small and they can no longer safely operate because of the number of people who have to self-isolate. They will be closed for one incubation period, which is generally a two-week period.
Meanwhile, Dr. Henry called it a “sobering weekend” for covid-19 exposures, with 817 new cases announced over three days including one day with more than 300 new cases. Since last Friday, B.C. schools have had at least 51 covid-19 exposures, a number that is growing every week. In Surrey alone, there were 23 exposures reported in the past five days and in Vancouver there were 17.
When asked if the two school closures mean the school restart plan isn’t working, Dr. Henry say the opposite – she said they mean it is working and there have been fewer than 10 covid-19 transmission events in B.C. schools.
She also hinted that she might impose restrictions in some areas of the province, but not in others, because the pandemic is playing out so differently across the province. For example, the Fraser Health Authority had 26.5 covid-19 cases per 100,000 people last week, while the Vancouver Island Health Authority had less than one case per 100,000 people.
She didn’t say whether that could include closing schools in one part of the province, but not another, but she has made it clear that keeping schools open is a top priority.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the school board made two important decisions about racism. They decided to give all staff anti-racism training this year, at the latest by September. This will entail adding a non-instructional day to the calendar and they are going to encourage the new minister of education to make that a provincial mandate. Trustees in Vancouver are also reviewing the use of police liaison officers in schools and they agreed – against the urging of some advocates – to postpone that review so that they have enough time for public consultation.
The VSB is also working on its long-range facilities plan and some parents have concerns. The Vancouver District Parents Association wants the district to create a vision for schools that exceeds the current 10-year planning horizon, use a methodology that is based on where kids live and will live and a plan that includes an explicit statement of how full schools should be. The long-range planning process for Vancouver schools is fraught with difficulty, including a plan to close several schools a few years ago that resulted in the entire board being replaced by an official trustee. The city has changed and some schools are bursting, while others are too big for their neighbourhood populations. At the same time, many Vancouver schools are old and in need of repair, and many need upgrades to be safe in an earthquake.
In other parts of the country, the Globe and Mail’s Caroline Alphonso writes about how some schools are trying to bring back extracurricular activities like sports, school clubs, bands and choirs. These activities are all crucial for mental health, which we all know has suffered during the pandemic.
The New York Times reported international research that shows schools do not seem to be fueling the spread of covid-19. In particular, elementary schools seem to be quite safe, the research found.
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