All Surrey Schools international student trips have been cancelled for the rest of the school year.
Initially, the district had cancelled nine out of 16 trips in March, but district spokesperson Ritinder Matthew told the Now-Leader that, “everything’s been cancelled, just in light of the current situation.”
“Our students would return and be quarantined for two weeks.”
Matthew said parents have been notified and the district is still working with travel partners and families to work out the travel insurance due to the cancellations.
The district has also cancelled facility rentals involving groups of more than 250 people until March 29.
It was on Thursday that provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix recommended now travel outside Canada and banned large gatherings in the province during the coronavirus pandemic.
They said B.C. residents have a choice whether they want to risk going to the U.S. or another country, but if they do they should expect to be in isolation for 14 days when they return.
“The situation is just too risky right now,” Henry said.
This follows Superintendent Jordan Tinney’s report on COVID-19 during Wednesday’s board of education meeting.
“I want to talk about how fast this landscape is changing,” said Tinney, referring to international travel.
At the time of the meeting, Tinney said, the district was still in discussions about the viability of a planned student trip to Argentina, which is “not on the list of countries that are worrisome for COVID-19.”
“The best information I have in this moment is that Argentina has declared that anyone who comes into the country from a high-risk country will be quarantined upon landing in Argentina,” Tinney said Wednesday. “They have said a high-risk country is the United States. This is a plane that stops and disembarks in and transfers in the United States.”
It had been an already busy week for Surrey Schools, which closed one school for a day for deep cleaning and deep cleaned two others.
Coast Meridian Elementary was closed Wednesday after a school community member had tested positive for COVID-19. The school was deep cleaned on Wednesday.
Sullivan Heights Secondary has a community member test positive, while a community-user group at Serpentine Heights had a positive case.
“When we say a member of the school community, we actually mean a parent, student staff member. When we say community use, we mean someone who’s rented the facility and come in,” Tinney said.
Tinney said the district found out about the Sullivan Heights case early enough to have a crew of 30 clean the school on Sunday (March 8), “which allowed parents to make the choice about whether they would attend on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.” He said it was a “monstrous” job.
However, in a case like Coast Meridian, Tinney said the district found out about the case late in the day.
“We have a community member who’s saying and doing their absolute diligence in letting us know and we’re super thankful for that,” he said. “We are the holders of that information, but it’s so late at night, we can’t really talk to Fraser Health and say, ‘Could you please confirm for us?’ because they’re dealing with a thousand requests on the side.
“We have to make difficult calls by the morning time about whether schools should be open or closed and what is in the best interest to the community, so we make the best call we possibly can on the moment.”
For the latest on coronavirus and COVID-19 news, visit surreynowleader.com/tag/coronavirus.
– With files from Tom Fletcher