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  • Tracy Sherlock

Education this week: At least 40 covid-19 exposures so far, but little or no transmission


B.C. schools have been open for just more than two weeks now. (Photo VSB)


At least 40 B.C. schools have had covid-19 exposures since the year began a couple of weeks ago. So far, there is no reported transmission in schools, but we are only now reaching the end of an incubation period.

A teacher in West Vancouver may have contracted covid-19 from a student after apparently not being warned, and is considering filing a WorkSafe claim, the North Shore News reports here.

There has been some confusion in exactly which exposures health authorities need to report, with Vancouver Coastal Health seeming to take a different approach. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at first called it a “misunderstanding,” but later said she has full confidence that Vancouver Coastal Health is doing everything right. Global News takes a look at that here and the North Shore News digs into it here.

One thing that should make things easier is a new “spit test” for children in kindergarten through Grade 12. It’s a made-in-B.C. sample collection test that involves gargling instead of having a large Q-tip put up your nose.

“Not only is the new method more comfortable for younger people, a B.C. company will provide the collection tube, reducing the province's dependency on the global supply chain for this sample method,” Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in classrooms, a couple of issues have come up that could potentially look quite different this year. First of all, reporting in secondary schools is going to be very different. With a quarterly system, the reporting periods will be greatly condensed and, of course, students will only be measured on a maximum of two courses in any one reporting period. I’d love to hear more about how that is going to work.

In elementary schools, I’ve been wondering how teachers are adapting the curriculum, particularly in the primary grades, where it is mostly play-based. It’s hard to have a play-based classroom if kids aren’t able to share toys – like Lego or Duplo, for example – and books. What are teachers doing to adapt their classrooms? Are students being placed in rows, rather than in groups? Let me know how that’s going.

We should hear an update next week about the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s application to the Labour Relations Board, which says teachers are feeling pressured to work in unsafe conditions and that there are inadequate protections and inconsistency across the province when it comes to covid-19. Students in New Westminster showed some support this week, as they held a “die-in” to show their concerns over how their schools have handled covid-19, the New Westminster Record reports.

Meanwhile, with clinical trials for covid-19 vaccines progressing well, it may be a long time before there is a vaccine for children, the NY Times reports. There are no trials underway for a covid-19 vaccine for children.

The other big news in B.C. is that NDP leader John Horgan called an election, breaking his party’s agreement with the BC Green Party to govern together until next fall. B.C. will vote in just one month’s time, on October 24. Horgan chose to take a gamble, given high popularity ratings in the polls.

With only one month to campaign, parties are likely scrambling to put together their platforms. It will be interesting to see if education becomes a major election issue, given the extraordinary global attention paid to students’ return to school.

Education Columnist Patti Bacchus writes about education and the election here.

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