Teachers around the province are deeply concerned to hear about exposures connected to more infectious variants of COVID-19 in schools in Surrey and Delta. It is time for decisive action by government and health officials to counter this new threat to the safety of schools.
It’s imperative that staff, students, and parents within these school communities follow the directions of health officials. In the broader community, we need people to do all they can to limit the potential spread of these variants, so they don’t find their way into our schools. However, it’s clear that the existing measures are not enough.
We need the Ministry of Education, Provincial Health Officer, and Health Authorities to do more to protect staff, students and the families they all go home to. The BC government and health officials have the power to make schools safer and they must use that power. With COVID-19 variants clearly spreading in communities, it is time for these officials to take immediate action.
To start, school districts need the authority to go above and beyond the established health and safety guidelines when necessary. When there is a high rate of COVID-19 within a community, a school district should be able to make regional or site-based enhancements to the safety protocols. Those enhancements include mandating masks everywhere in specific schools, including at elementary schools, and making changes to schedules or online learning access to reduce density and increase physical distancing.
School districts need to be able to exceed the health guidelines to ensure everyone in schools is better protected, especially when there has been an exposure to a COVID-19 variant. This will help keep people in schools safe, but also prevent the variants of concern from spreading to vulnerable adults living in students’ homes.
We also need to see widespread rapid testing when a COVID-19 variant of concern shows up in schools. This is not the time to be conservative with testing. Everyone connected to a class with a COVID-19 variant exposure should receive a rapid test. This could help find more cases and reduce the stress and anxiety that is rapidly rising.
(contact Rich Overgaard at firstname.lastname@example.org)