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Education During Covid-19

The updated provincial guidelines for K-12 settings cover many topics, including mask use, hand hygiene, vaccinations, regional responses to the pandemic, cleaning, ventilation, gatherings, extracurricular activities, meal programs and sports:

For more, visit the BC Ministry of Education Covid-19 Safe Schools and check out our  SD46 2021 Health and Safety Guide info-graphic.

 

Supporting Families and Children

Uncertainty is hard for most people, yet there are simple and practical ways to cope with even the most difficult situations.  Research shows that coping with stress builds resilience and can make us stronger.  People in our community and around the world are helping each other, working together, showing kindness, and trying to be creative in addressing the problems we are facing.

Here are some ways to help yourself and your family during this time:

  • Self-Compassion – Fear is a natural response to a pandemic such as this. Try to be kind to yourself if you are feeling more worried or anxious than usual.
  • Self-Care – It remains important to engage in healthy and relaxing activities that you enjoy. Consider a wide variety of fun, intellectually stimulating, and physically active options such as reading for professional growth or leisure, cooking, practicing yoga, exercising, meditating, and spending time in nature.
  • Connection – Stay connected with family and friends through virtual visits.
  • Routines – Keeping similar routines and developing healthy new routines helps provide predictability and a sense of safety for you and your family.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a very stressful and frightening time for our children.  While it is important to remember that fear and anxiety about disease is normal, excessive worry is not.  There are many things we can do as parents to support our children during these extraordinary times.  When talking to our children about the current situation, a solutions-focussed approach is helpful.

Things to keep in mind when having discussions with children include:

  • Many individuals and organizations (governments, doctors, nurses, schools etc.) are helping during the current situation.
  • It will get better.
  • Life will return to normal.
  • Let’s focus on caring for our family, friends, and community.
  • Positive Focus – Try to shift the dialogue away from the negative and toward what we can be grateful for in this time.
  • Talk and Listen and Model – Take the time to talk to your child or teen about COVID-19 in an age-appropriate way. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe, and share your own strategies for coping with stress.  Model for them how to be resilient and health.

Supporting All Children and Youth

  • Routines are important and can help to create a sense of predictability and security.
    • Some examples of routines include scheduling daily academic time, outdoor activities, and family time.
  • Focus on the moment. Mindful breathing is very helpful.
  • Model calmness, routine, and a focus on family and friends.
  • It is appropriate to provide a fact-based discussion on the changing landscape of COVID-19. This discussion should be done in a calm and reassuring tone conveying the message that we are safe.  We take precautions, but we are safe.  Listen, provide age-appropriate information and focus on prevention (frequent hand-washing, social distancing etc.).
  • Focus on the positive and encourage children to do the same. Rather than feeling stuck inside, for example, see it as an opportunity to focus on family and home.

Supporting Older Students

  • Limit social media and news consumption. Create a window of time to check the news together rather than watching it all day.
  • Consult accurate information from reliable sources
  • Limit exposure to the news;
    • Watching news that repeatedly emphasizes both the rapid spread of coronavirus and lack of effective treatment makes people feel anxious and dis-empowered. Anxious thoughts include those that suggest the worst case scenario and our inability to cope with that.  This news coverage feeds that faulty thinking.
  • Moderate the amount of gaming time.
  • Eat as nutritiously as is possible. Make balanced meals you can prepare together.
  • Try to ensure older students are getting enough sleep (sleepfoundation.org).

Supporting Younger Students

  • Younger students may show their stress in different ways, for example: crying, irritation, ‘acting out,’ reduced attention and concentration, regression to an earlier are such as bed-wetting, and ceasing activities that they previously enjoyed.
  • Here are some strategies to help reduce stress in younger students:
    • More time with trusted adults
    • Increased play time, inside and out (if possible)
    • Routines
    • Quiet times to read books, listen to music, do puzzles, and play board games
    • Adequate sleep

Mental Health

  • Children, teens or adults who have mental illness or addiction should continue to seek support.
  • Many counsellors are continuing their work on the phone or online.
  • Local supports in the community are ongoing, but support may look different. (see below for phone numbers)
  • There are helplines and online tools and apps (please see below for a few ideas).
  • Have a safety plan and ensure that youth and children know they are not alone.

Phone Numbers/Crisis Resources:

Local Information:  

Mental Health Resources for Children and Youth are available during this time. Supports may look different, but they are still working to support families and children with mental health during this unprecedented time.  Please use the links below for local resources and contact information.

Sunshine Coast Youth Resources

Children and Youth Mental Health Resources for Sunshine Coast

Provincial Resources:


Apps:


Supportive Resources – websites, apps, helplines and other phone numbers


The Sunshine Coast Child and Youth Medical and Mental Health Town Hall took place on May 21st. Below is the recording of the event and resources for families.

Recording of April 2020 Mental Health Town Hall Meeting

Youth Vaping During COVID-19

The McCreary Centre Society has released a research paper on youth vaping during COVID-19. In June, September, and December 2020, 28 youth researchers from across BC collected over 3,500 surveys from their peers about their experiences with vaping during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report of the findings, Youth vaping during COVID-19: BC youth’s experiences during the pandemic is available to download here. Youth researchers created an infographic poster to share the results with parents/caregivers.

This video was created by Russell Teibert, Vancouver Whitecaps Captain and McCreary Board Member. In the video, Russell shares with youth what he’s learned through sport about life, facing adversity, and finding the people in your community who can help you succeed.


Covid-19: Coping with Anxiety in Children and Adults Webinar Recording


BC Children’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre 2-part webinar series on Challenges with School Attendance where the presenters talk about anxiety and related challenges that can be a barrier to attending school, as well as practical strategies to help things go more smoothly. 


FamilySmart


The BC Centre for Disease Control has released their report on Impact of School Closures on Learning, Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic


UBC-CMHA COVID19 Effects on Mental Health of Vulnerable Populations Report


Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Resource for COVID-19


Introducing Foundry’s Virtual Services!

Foundry is working to make sure all young people in British Columbia can get the care and support they need, when they need it. They offer virtual drop-in counselling sessions by voice, video and chat to young people ages 12-24 and their caregivers! 


EASE at Home (for Parents and Caregivers)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EASE classroom activities were adapted for use at home by parents and caregivers to support children’s mental health and continuous learning. These fun and practical strategies help guide parents and caregivers in managing their children’s anxiety and worries in the comfort of their home during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.


Families Staying Active

Canadian kids need active bodies to build their best brains. In order for them to reach their full mental, emotional and intellectual potential, their bodies have to move to get the wheels in their brains turning! This ParticipACTION App has great ideas for home activities content for the whole family!


Guided Meditations and Mindfulness from BC Children’s Hospital – Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways, and can be done at almost any time. Dr. Dzung Vo and Dr. Jake Locke from BC Children’s Hospital have recorded some of the mindfulness meditations that they use in the mindfulness groups they offer at BC Children’s Hospital. Feel free to download these recordings and listen to them from your computer or mobile device.


Sunshine Coast Community Task Force

The volunteer task force will try to help community members to connect with the organizations who are responding to the special needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis. The Sunshine Coast Community Task force is a team of dedicated volunteer and community organizations working together to connect the people and the resources they need during the current crisis.

Contact: Phone: 1-866-212-5025 – 10:00 am – 2:00 pm – Mon-Fri / Email: scctaskforce@gmail.com /Website: scctaskforce.com

Archive of SD46 School Exposures:

School NameDate(s) of ExposureFor this case, self-monitor for symptoms until
Elphinstone SecondaryJanuary 7th and 11thJanuary 25th
Chatelech SecondaryJanuary 26thFebruary 9th
Chatelech SecondaryJanuary 13th, 14th, 18th, 21st, and 25th14 days from last exposure date
Elphinstone SecondaryMarch 9th and 11thMarch 25th, Midnight
House of Red Cedar Indigenous Covid-19 Outreach ProgramApril 6thApril 20th
Sunshine Coast Alternative SchoolApril 19thMay 4th 
Chatelech SecondaryApril 26th and 27thMay 11th 
Chatelech SecondaryApril 22, 23, 26, 27thMay 11th 
Chatelech SecondaryApril 26-28th (inclusive)May 12th 
Chatelech SecondaryMay 6thMay 20th
Elphinstone SecondaryMay 6th and 7thMay 21st
Elphinstone SecondaryMay 10thMay 24th 
Elphinstone SecondaryMay 11thMay 26th
West Sechelt ElementaryMay 11thMay 25th 
West Sechelt ElementaryMay 10th and 11thMay 25th, midnight

BC Ministry of Education:

June 17, 2021: Recovery Plan investment supports safe K-12 return

March 29th, 2021 | Three-Week Circuit Breaker

March 2, 2021:  K-12 COVID Rapid Response Teams & Updated Daily Health Check for K-12 students 

February 4, 2021: Enhanced Safety Measures for K-12 Schools 

December 17th, 2020: Honourable Minister Jennifer Whiteside’s letter of introduction and holiday greetings for parents and caregivers

September 3rd, 2020: New federal funding builds on plans for a safe back to school

August 26th, 2020: Detailed plans support safe return to classroom

August 17, 2020: K-12 operational guidelines set requirements for masks

August 12, 2020: Orientation Week Ensures a Safe, Ready and Welcome Return to School News Release


School District 46 – Sunshine Coast:

March 31, 2021: Superintendent Letter to Families

March 10th, 2021: Superintendent’s Letter to Families

September 24th, 2020: SD46 & VCH Town Hall Q&A Recording

September 21st, 2020: Letter to Families re: Protocols for CV19 School Exposures

September 11th, 2020: SD46 Superintendent’s Update

August 27th, 2020: SD46 Options and Survey

August 13, 2020: Superintendent’s Update: 08/13

July 29, 2020: September Start-Up

Reports:

  • BCCDC Impact of School Closures Report: Impact of School Closures on Learning, Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 PandemicThe findings of the report speaks to how important it is to have face to face supports for our children, especially those with diverse abilities. It also confirms why as a school district we have been proactive and diligent to have solid processes in place and resources to support our diverse learners whether they are present at school or remote learning. Ideally, we want all of our students, especially those with diverse needs, to be back at school so that we can provide the safe space and specialized services in an optimal environment.  However, we also understand that for a variety of good reasons some students need to stay at home. Therefore, we continue to be creative whichever option our families choose to provide equitable access to education, resources, tools and supports.

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is intended to answer some of your questions regarding education, resources, and supports during the Covid pandemic. It is informed largely by the resources listed at the end of this document.

Note: The information shared here is based on the most current information we have. As more information becomes available, we will update this FAQ accordingly.

  • B.C. students returned to full-time, in-person learning this September and can look forward resuming sports, music and other extracurricular activities, while mask requirements and other health and safety measures remain in place to keep schools safe.
  • We know that students’ academic growth and emotional well-being is enhanced through face to face connection and activities. We will be moving forward in a mindful way so that our learning community feels safe and supported as we begin this school year. 
  • Local public health orders may be put in place for entire regions or communities, including schools. For schools, the local medical health officer may issue a recommendation for an individual school, a grouping of schools, a school district, all schools within the health authority region or some combination thereof, to implement specific additional health and safety measures during times of elevated risk.
  • Any additional regional measures put in place by local medical health officers are likely to be similar to those in place during the 2020-21 school year, and may include:
    • limits on gatherings and events;
    • changing room arrangements or incorporating more activities that maximize space between people and reduce face-to-face contact; and
    • limiting visitors.
  • We will continue to move forward carefully, informed by data and guided by science and public health advice.
  •  For the 2021/22 school year, parents/caregivers and families will continue to have the choice to:
    • enrol their child in one of our “bricks and mortar” public schools;
    • enrol their child in an online learning program; or
    • register their child for homeschooling prior to the start of the school year. With homeschooling, parents/caregivers are responsible for designing the educational program for their child and must register their child with either a public or independent school.
    • Parents/caregivers and families can choose a different option at any time during the school year, based on program availability and applicable board of education policies and procedures.
  • SD46 continues to ensure heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed, operated and maintained to Occupational Health and Safety and WorkSafeBC standards.
  • SD46 school filters have been upgraded to MERV 13.  A small number of buildings, that do not have HVAC systems, like portables, have been upgraded with air filtration and heat exchangers to bring in fresh air.
  • Where and when it is feasible, doors and windows will be open to provide a flow of air through spaces. 
  • Outdoor classes will still be encouraged, based on their health and learning benefits.
  • All students, staff, and visitors must complete a daily health check. If you feel unwell, stay at home and seek a health assessment and/or COVID-19 test. 
  • Parents and caregivers are responsible for assessing their children daily before sending them to school.
  • School administrators will ensure staff and other adults know they are responsible for assessing themselves daily for symptoms prior to entering the school.
  • Use the daily health check app:
  • The K to 12 Health Check website and app is an easy way to decide if your child should attend school based on their symptoms. It includes current health guidelines and offers an age-appropriate user experience for K to 12 students. Download the app: iOS devices (iPhone/iPad) / Android devices
  • Staff should conduct the WorkSafeBC Employee Daily Health Check.
  • Visitors should conduct the WorkSafeBC Visitor Health Check prior to entry to any of our facilities. 
  • The mask mandate in place at the end of the 2020-21 school year will stay in place to start this school year. All K-12 staff visitors, and students in grades 4 to 12 are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas of the school and on school buses. Students in kindergarten to Grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
  • In addition to the continuation of indoor mask requirements for all K-12 staff, visitors and students in grades 4 to 12, changes to the health and safety measures also include the ability for health authorities to introduce additional regional measures specific to individual schools or school districts in instances where community transmission rates are higher.
  • Students and staff will be required to complete daily health checks – to stay home when feeling sick – and to practice diligent hand hygiene. 

The school district follows the guidance of the Public Health Officer, the Ministry of Education, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the local health authority, in adhering to the use of masks inside schools.  

Please note, there are exceptions for mask wearing. Parents and students can talk to their classroom teacher and principal about these needs.

The following is on page 19 of the Provincial Communicable Disease Guidelines for the K-12 Setting.

Exceptions to the mask policy include:

  • A person who cannot tolerate wearing a mask for health or behavioural reasons
  • A person unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person
  • If the mask is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it
  • If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask. For example:
  • Playing a wind instrument
  • Engaging in high-intensity physical activity
  • If a person is eating or drinking
  • If a person is behind a barrier
  • While providing a service to a person with a disability or diverse ability (for example, a hearing impairment), where visual cues, facial expressions and/or lip reading/movements are important

Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are encouraged to wear a mask indoors in schools and on school buses, but are not required to do so. Mask wearing remains a personal or family/caregiver choice for these students.

Public Health and Vaccination Clinics in Schools

The Inter-ministerial Protocols for the Provision of Support Services to Schools requires boards of education and participating independent school authorities to provide a designated space in each school for public health nurses or other qualified health personnel to carry out their duties, which include immunizations. This means we provide space, as well as share and distribute health information from the BC Centre of Disease Control and the Public Health Officer.  

Additional information on the school district’s immunization regulation can be found SD46 Immunization Regulation 3125.

Mature Minors and the Infants Act

When talking about consent it is important to note that boards of education cannot override the Infants Act. This piece of legislation is about a minor’s right to make a decision for themselves about their health, which includes decisions about medical procedures, medication and prophylaxis.

It requires that a medical professional determine a minor’s capacity to understand the consequences, potential negative outcomes as well as the intended positive outcomes of medical decisions. A school district has no authority to interfere in the right for a minor to access their own health/medical care and when required we also need to provide space for them to access medical/health services on our sites.  School staff are not part of this process. 

Our school district encourages parents to talk to their children about health-related decisions that impact them and weave into that conversation what their own personal family values are around these issues and where they come from. Consent forms are sent home with students to allow for parents to be aware of vaccinations offered on site and to start the conversation with their children. The consent forms indicate that a lack of a signed consent does not mean that a minor will not receive care/treatment.

Here is additional information on the Infant’s Act, Mature Minor Consent and Immunizations

COVID-19 Vaccines:

Questions regarding the safety of COVID vaccines should be addressed to the BC Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Officer. There is information related to vaccines for children aged 12-17 at the following link: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID-19_vaccine/Children_Vaccination.pdf.  In this document, the BCCDC states that “Proof of vaccination will not be required for essential activities, including attending K-12 schools.”

SD46 is an inclusive district and we want all students feeling safe and included at school. We support all students byusing positive and inclusive approaches.  These positive and inclusive practices are to ensure all students fully participate in school without stigma. Vaccination status and health decisions are not reasons for exclusion.  If you or your child are experiencing discrimination, connect with your classroom teacher and principal.

  •  Schools are not included in the vaccine passport because they are controlled environments with comprehensive health and safety measures already in place. As well, in schools we know who is in the building and when people are in the building.
  • About half of all K-12 students are under 12 years old, so the vaccine passport would not be applicable to those students.
  • Hand-washing must occur upon school entry and before/after breaks and eating, using washroom and using frequently touched shared equipment.
  • Students and staff should also wash their hands carefully when leaving for school and arriving home from school.
  •  Students and staff should:
    • Cough and sneeze into their elbow, sleeve, or a tissue.
    • Throw away used tissues and immediately perform hand hygiene.

Hand Hygiene 

Some families have raised concerns regarding the use of hand sanitizer. There are alternatives to hand sanitizer such as hand washing with soap and water. Please discuss with your school principal if you prefer that your child does not use hand sanitizer for their hand hygiene needs.

  • Buses used for transporting students will be cleaned and disinfected according to the guidance provided in the Cleaning and Disinfecting section of the provincial guidance document.
  • Students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear non-medical masks or face coverings when they are on the bus. Students in Grades K to 3 are encouraged to wear a non-medical mask or face covering on school buses but are not required to do so – mask wearing remains a personal or family/caregiver choice for these students, and their choices must be respected.
  • Non-medical masks or face coverings should be put on before loading.
  • Students should clean their hands before and after taking the bus and complete a daily health check.
  • Bus drivers are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) on school buses except while driving.

Who can I contact for more information?

Mike Martens, Assistant Manager of Facilities and Transportation

Phone: 604-886-9870 | Email: mmartens@sd46.bc.ca

Randy Gould, Manager, Thirdwave Bus Services

Phone: 604-885-1260 | Email: randyg@thirdwavebus.com

Cohorts, also known as learning groups, are no longer recommended by public health as a COVID-19 mitigation measure and will not be used.

Physical distancing of two metres is no longer a recommended public health measure for the K-12 setting. However, strategies  to create space between people and to support students and staff will be used, including, but not limited to: 

  • reminding students and staff about respecting others personal space, and using visual supports, signage, prompts, video modelling, etc., as necessary;
  • using available space to spread people out where possible for gatherings and events;
  • taking students outside more often, where and when possible; and
  • managing flow of people in common areas, including hallways and around lockers, to minimize crowding and allow for ease of people passing through.

Visitors are welcome! To keep our spaces as safe as possible and to avoid crowding, we encourage visitors to only enter schools for pre-arranged meetings or activities. Visitors are required to follow health and safety guidelines and sign in at the office.

Sports, events and extra-curricular activities will resume, in alignment with Public Health Orders and in a gradual way.

Gatherings and events can occur; however, we will be opening up these opportunities slowly.

The following cleaning frequency guidelines must be adhered to when cleaning and disinfecting schools:

  • General cleaning of the premises, and cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, at least once in a 24-hour period and when visibly dirty.

Water fountain use will no longer be restricted.

A:  Please visit Vancouver Coastal Health for school exposure lists by district.

This online resource will provide parents, teachers and community members with timely, accurate information on the COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools in their region.

Health authorities will provide the name of the school, the community and the date and type of notification (outbreak, cluster or exposure.)

January 14, 2021: VCH reports on COVID-19 transmission in schools across its region

  • Public health will investigate to determine if there were any potential close contacts within the school
  • If it is determined that there are close contacts within the school, public health will:
    • Notify the school administrators and request information to assist with contact tracing
    • Provide guidance on what steps should be taken
  • Public health may then:
    • Recommend 14-day self-isolation if necessary
    • Recommend self-monitoring for symptoms if necessary
    • Provide follow-up recommendations if necessary
  • Schools will ensure students required to self-isolate are able to continue their educational program. Together, schools and public health officials will determine if any other actions are necessary.
  • Parents, caregivers and families will be notified by public health if your child was determined to be a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person.
  • The key point for families to remember is that Vancouver Coastal Health will connect directly with any individuals who may have been exposed with further instructions via phone call or letter. If you are contacted by Vancouver Coastal Health, please follow their advice carefully.
  • If you do not receive a phone call or letter from Vancouver Coastal Health, your child should continue to attend school. As a reminder, please continue daily health checks to monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms. If you have any health questions or concerns, we encourage you to call 811.
  • For privacy reasons, we are not able to provide personal information on any individuals confirmed to have Covid-19. 

A: Typically, the process of contact tracing takes two to four days from the time Vancouver Coastal Health is notified of a positive case. They generally reach the case within 24 hours and their contacts within the next 24 hours. The exact time to complete contact tracing can vary depending on the number of case contacts, types of interactions, speed of replies. 

Contact Tracing Explained Video 

BCCDC Contact Tracing Infographic

 

A: Self-isolation means staying home and avoiding situations where one could come in contact with others. Self-isolation is required for those:

  • confirmed as a case of COVID-19,
  • who are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, and
  • who have travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days.

Self-monitor means monitor your symptoms for 14 days from the date of possible exposure. You and your household can continue with your normal daily activities. If you experience symptoms, self-isolate immediately and contact your public health unit, your health-care provider or 811.

VCH How to self-monitor infographic

Schools will ensure students required to self-isolate are able to continue their educational program, if the student is well enough to do so. This may include an online presence with connections and touch points. 

Please visit our facilities page for more information regarding our facility bookings during the Covid pandemic.

 

A: Community Schools are providing food to a significant number of families who are struggling to make ends meet at this time. As a district we are working with the Community School Associations and joining with other community groups to ensure that Sunshine Coast families do not go hungry during this pandemic. Please contact your child’s school principal to learn more or if you have any questions. 

A: Telus provides a low cost internet service for K-12 students from low income families. 

The program offers internet connectivity for $9.95/month (plus applicable taxes) for 24 months; regular pricing thereafter. 

If you have questions or comments about your child’s learning, please contact their teacher. If the matter is more school related, please connect with your child’s principal. If the matter is more related to the direction of the district, please email us at questions@sd46.bc.ca. If you don’t know who to talk to, contact any of us. We are here to help! All district and school contact information is available on this site.

We will ensure commonly asked questions are shared (while protecting your personal privacy) so that we can update our FAQ and provide an answer that benefits all visitors to this page.

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