Cambridge Elementary, which closed for two weeks in November 2020 for a COVID-19 outbreak, was one of three schools in which a team conducted an environmental health assessment to look at what could be contributing to the virus spread in schools. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Cambridge Elementary, which closed for two weeks in November 2020 for a COVID-19 outbreak, was one of three schools in which a team conducted an environmental health assessment to look at what could be contributing to the virus spread in schools. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘Sometimes the guard is let down,’ superintendent says after COVID checks at Surrey schools

District’s health and safety assessment identifies some issues

The superintendent of Surrey’s school district says more can be done to keep schools COVID safe.

Environmental health assessments at three Surrey schools have brought some issues to light, Jordan Tinney told the school board during its Feb. 10 meeting.

Tinney said that to date there had been environmental health checks at three schools in the district: École Panorama Ridge, which has had dozens of exposure notices since the start of the school year, and Cambridge and Newton elementary schools, which both declared outbreaks and shut down for two weeks.

RELATED: COVID outbreak forces Surrey school to close for two weeks, Nov. 14, 2020

RELATED: Surrey school that shut down due to COVID-19 outbreak set to reopen next week, Nov. 26, 2020

RELATED: Second Surrey elementary school declares COVID-19 outbreak, closes for two weeks, Nov. 27, 2020

Schools – COVID exposures

He said daily health checks are needed, as are protocols to help enforce physical distancing in common areas. He added that students should also have their own supplies so they’re not sharing and that the number of parents and visitors at the schools needs to be limited.

Classroom configurations could also be better, he said.

“We’re not pointing any fingers, we’re not blaming anyone, we know that there are calls for smaller class size, but the reality is that classrooms are still not being configured in a manner that is keeping students at the distance to the greatest extent possible,” Tinney said. “For example, some people still think that they we can have kids sitting in pods where you have desks together and those desks could be turned so that the students are facing each other.”

Tinney said that while staff “do practice a lot of vigilance,” there have been some issues in staff rooms or informal areas.

“Sometimes the guard is let down,” he said. “Maybe masks are not worn or in some cases we needed to tape up the couches in the staff rooms and take away some chairs to make sure people were practicing physical distancing.”

And he noted the “importance of cohorts.” Tinney said students should try and remain in their cohorts, particularly during lunch and before and after school.

“All of you can imagine a large secondary school when the day is over, what it’s like to ask students to try and remain in the cohorts.”

Tinney said the district never wants to get as far as an outbreak, and he hopes the team can go into schools earlier when they see cases starting to rise.

READ ALSO: Two classes at Surrey elementary school self-isolating as 4 cases identified, Feb. 12, 2021

READ ALSO: New mask rules in schools provide ‘more clarity,’ but ‘does not go as far as needed’: STA, Feb. 5, 2021

Meantime, Surrey Teachers’ Association first vice-president Julia MacRae said a lot of the issues stem from the overcrowding in the schools.

“We want people to be safer from the pandemic than they have been,” said MacRae, but she added she’s “not upset that they’re paying close attention.”

“It’s interesting (the district) spent a lot of money in cleaning surfaces,” she noted, adding that, through science, it’s become more apparent that COVID-19 is more likely to spread through aerosols.

MacRae said it’s “more likely” for the virus to spread if you get it sitting near someone who is talking, laughing or singing.

“We don’t have a possibility of physical distancing,” she said. “You don’t have a space big enough for the distancing needed.”

She said the STA has heard from some teachers about the issues in staff rooms and informal areas, and that it’s “upsetting to some teachers to not have their lunch space,” but the association supports the move to enforce physical distancing in those areas.

But she noted it goes back to schools being crowded, and teachers not having spaces to eat their lunches if their classrooms are being cleaned.

“There’s no other place for you to go.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The emergency department at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, B.C., in July 2020. (Black Press Media)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation reaches $12 million goal

New operating suites to open this fall

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Surrey RCMP asking for dash-cam video of ‘suspicious incident’

Incident involves a newer model Toyota Rav 4 SUV

Surrey RCMP are investigating a “serious” collision near Cloverdale Saturday evening. (Curtis Kreklau photo)
Surrey RCMP investigating ‘serious’ collision in Cloverdale

Witness says vehicle collided with utility pole at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read