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January Restart Updates

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January 7, 2022

Dear SD46 Learning Community,

As we prepare for the full return to in-person learning on Monday, January 10, I wanted to share some important information and updates with you. In addition, you will receive more information from your individual school about details pertaining to each school site.

We have all experienced many challenges over the last three school years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The education system has needed to adjust repeatedly for the health and safety of our schools and communities. Together we adapted to changes, overcame obstacles, and celebrated our resilience. As a district and as a community, we are continuing our work in ensuring students, staff, and families are healthy and safe. We are doing our part to support public health’s efforts in protecting our health care system and the most vulnerable in our community. Thank you to students, staff, families, employer groups, and community partners for your ongoing work in helping respond to this pandemic. 

HEALTH AND SAFETY

What personal measures are expected of students and staff?

It is everyone’s responsibility to do their part in helping keep our school communities safe. The district continues to remind students, staff, and any visitors to follow daily personal measures outlined in the SD46 Health and Safety infographic. The following VCH Swiss Cheese Prevention model outlines that it takes personal and community measures working together to keep our students, staff, families and community safe.

Do staff and students need to wear an N95 mask at school?

The guidance from the Ministry of Health is to wear a 3-ply mask. Double masks can enhance fit (disposable mask under a well-fitted cloth mask; though 2 disposable masks are not more protective than 1).

Please remember to send a cloth or disposable mask to school with your child every day. We also have supplies of disposable 3-ply masks in the school offices if students or staff require them.

When can a staff/student return to school after being ill or testing positive for Covid-19?

When a student, staff or other adults can return to school depends on the type of symptoms they experienced, if a COVID-19 test is recommended and the result of their test. See BC Thrive Health Tool and BCCDC ‘I tested Positive for Covid-19’ and follow the guidance.

Anyone who has tested positive using a rapid test should complete the online reporting tool provided by public health, and provide all school-related information requested.

To protect personal privacy, schools are unable to provide personal contact information for the purpose of notifying others of a test result.

What enhanced school measures have been put in place?

Health and safety continue to be our top priority. The district developed the SD46 Communicable Disease Prevention Plan, which implements the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings,COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Settings, and WorkSafeBC guidelines.

As announced by the province in late December 2021, enhanced measures in K-12 schools will be in place beginning Monday, January 10, 2022, as outlined in this addendum here. Existing health and safety measures prior to January 10, 2022, remain in place.

Enhanced measures include:

  • Implement strategies that prevent crowding during class transition times.
  • Hold school gatherings and events virtually. If they must be in-person, limit the number of people to no more than 50% operating capacity.
  • Hold staff-only gatherings virtually whenever possible.
  • Limit visitors to those who are supporting activities that directly benefit student learning and well-being.
  • Pause extracurricular sports tournaments.

Do the new rules prevent parents from entering schools?

  • Schools will be limiting visitors to those that are offering services that are of direct benefit to students, like those helping with meal programs or teacher candidates.
  • Schools will work with their parent community to ensure activities like drop off and pick up continue to occur safely, and that virtual options are provided when parents need to connect with their child’s school. 

Are school youth sports allowed during this new phase of the pandemic?

At the secondary level, sports will be continuing, both practices and games. At the elementary level, games will be paused for the month of January.

What ventilation systems are in place in the district/schools?

  • 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 the 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.
  • For ventilation system overviews by the school, click here.

CONTACT TRACING: SELF MANAGEMENT

Is public health still doing contact tracing?
The emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 has necessitated changes in public health management. With higher levels of community transmission, a shorter virus incubation period, and the increased use of rapid antigen testing, contact tracing and close contact notification by public health is no longer effective to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Public health has transitioned to individual self-management (i.e., individuals care for themselves, engaging with health care providers when needed), with public health focused on identifying and responding to larger clusters and outbreaks. Individuals who test positive are to notify those they live with or have had intimate contact with.

Will schools (including staff and students) be notified if there is exposure at school?
Recent public health guidance recommends those who test positive for COVID-19 notify those whom they live with or who they’ve had intimate contact with. They do not need to notify the school or others at school. Going forward, schools will be monitoring their attendance to determine if a public health-determined threshold for a grade or school has been met. If met, schools will send a notification to the school community indicating the threshold has been met and that they are following up with public health for further investigation.  

How will rapid tests be used in schools?
When students return on January 10, rapid tests will continue to be used under the direction of Medical Health Officers. With the additional supply of rapid tests for schools expected in the coming weeks, the Ministry of Education continues to work with the PHO and Ministry of Health to determine how these rapid tests will be used in K-12.

WHAT TO EXPECT FOR POSSIBLE DISRUPTION TO LEARNING? 

What type of closures/disruptions could impact our schools?

There are two types of closures that could impact our schools:

  • Functional Closure: A functional closure of a school is a temporary closure determined by a school district or independent school due to a lack of staff to provide the required level of teaching, supervision, support, and/or custodial to ensure the health and safety of students. This would likely be due to a high number of staff or certain employees away who are required for a school to function, and the inability to temporarily replace them. 

  • Public Health Closure: A public health closure is the temporary closing of a school by order of a Medical Health Officer when they determine it is necessary to prevent the excessive transmission of a communicable disease (e.g., COVID-19). 

  • Transportation Disruption: A transportation closure is a lack of staff able to provide the required level of transportation services for students. This would likely be due to bus drivers and/or mechanics being away and the inability to replace those absences. Some routes may be adjusted, delayed, and/or cancelled. This does not impact school operations and schools will remain open.

What factors may result in a potential Functional Closure of an individual school?

As we know, what’s happening in our schools is reflective of what’s happening in our community, and our leadership team has had to consider and plan for the continued or increased impacts of Covid-19 on our staffing levels. While we will still use our on-call and casual staff to supplement school-based staff absences, in addition to district staff in required situations, we are also planning for the possibility that extreme staff shortages may require we temporarily call a Functional Closure to a school: a temporary shift of 3 to 10 days to home learning options, allowing us to provide continuity of learning until we can safely staff and support all students back at their school. This is an emergency measure that will only be taken if there is no other way to safely support students in person – a decision that will be made sparingly and, on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with school and district leadership.

What would a potential Functional Closure look like?

It is important to note, public health has not declared an outbreak at the school when a Functional Closure is under consideration. In the event of a Functional Closure, the district will make an announcement to students, staff, and families through regular communication methods, and with as much advanced warning as possible. The first day of a Functional Closure will involve staff preparations, communicating instructions, and sharing materials with pre-determined mechanisms/strategies with students and families. As soon as practical, staff will provide student support and further communication. Staff absence levels will continually be assessed and a decision to return to regular in-person instruction will be considered.

Functional Closures will have two levels dependent on staffing:

  • Level 1: Prioritize – children of health care workers, SD46 staff and diverse learners in attendance (additional essential service workers children as staffing allows)
  • Level 2: Full closure for all students of in-person learning

What would a potential Health Closure look like?

This will look much like a Functional Closure Level 2 scenario where all staff/students in a classroom or school would move to home-based learning for a limited amount of time as directed by public health. 

What preparations for the continuity of learning have been made for a Functional/Health Closure?

As directed by the province, the district has planned for potential school closures due to COVID-19 impacts. In the event that a Functional Closure or directed Health Closure is required for a school within our district for a period of 3 to 10 days, SD46 staff have spent this week preparing materials, resources, guidelines, and plans.

Will my child receive support if they need to self-isolate or are at home ill?

We remain committed to continuing to support the educational needs of our students. If children are absent from school due to illness or the need to self-isolate, our staff will coordinate home learning options to help keep all students moving forward in their classes.  

What if I am not ready to send my child back to school? Will the school provide remote learning for my child?

We are prioritizing in-person learning and a full return on Monday, January 10th. Remote learning is not currently being offered. Please contact your child’s principal to discuss your options. For more provincial online learning program options, click HERE, including the SD46 SPIDER Secondary Grade 10-12 Online Learning.

I have a Covid-19 health-related question or concern, who do I contact?

Please contact Vancouver Coastal Health if your question is health-related.

I have a question regarding education during the Covid-19 pandemic, who do I contact?

Please contact your child’s principal or the district: questions@sd46.bc.ca.  

We acknowledge these plans and information may change with the onset of new directives from the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Health Office. We will continue to be flexible and prepared to adjust to new protocols as well as communicate any changes to students, staff, and families.

Thank you all for continuing to be our partners in keeping students, staff and our school communities as safe as possible.  Please continue to reach out to your child’s principal if you have specific questions related to your school.

Warmly,

Kate Kerr 

Superintendent of Schools

School District 46 – Sunshine Coast

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