The Surrey school district has announced new “targeted” COVID-19 health and safety measures as it has “experienced more school-based exposures than any other district in our province.”
A release from the district Friday (March 12), just as spring break was starting, states the exposures are a “direct reflection of COVID-19 cases in our community, with the Surrey and White Rock areas experiencing more cases of COVID-19 than any other community in British Columbia.”
In the release, board of education chair Laurie Larsen said the district has had a number of exposures that are community acquired, and that have not resulted in school-based transmission.”
“This is a testament to the fact that our staff and students are protecting each other and following protocols consistent with public health guidelines and recommendations,” she said. “But our Board also recognizes that our community is dealing with a high burden of COVID-19 cases, and so we feel it’s prudent to introduce new targeted health and safety measures to further protect our staff and students.”
The new measures, which the district says was implemented in partnership with Fraser Health, will be effective March 29 as students, staff and teachers return from spring break.
The new measures include:
• Having three early dismissals “for the specific purpose of allowing school-based health and safety committees to review and adjust site-specific health and safety plans and protocols as needed, and within provincial guidelines.”
• Exploring options for adjusting elementary start times to allow teachers to have a common preparation time, which would “eliminate the need for cross cohort instruction.”
• Focusing on instruction in their own class, for those who “team-teach as subject specialists” in upper elementary grades, which would eliminate the need to teach more than one class.
• Working with school-based administrators “to increase vigilance during outdoor play time so students do not cross cohorts.”
• Working with school administrators and families “to ensure all students and parents vacate school grounds immediately after school.”
• Considering moving the StrongStart programs to online only. It’s a free program for parents and caregivers and children under the age of five to participate in learning experiences that are designed to support early learning development, such as language, physical, cognitive, social and emotional.
• Continuing to require masks in secondary schools unless staff or students are at their workstation, separated by a barrier or actively eating or drinking.
The district says these steps are “just a summary of a more comprehensive plan” to respond to the increased cases in Surrey and White Rock.
Between Jan. 1, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021, Surrey has recorded 21,697 COVOD-19 cases. With an additional 1,497 cases in South Surrey/White Rock, which is separated from the rest of Surrey, during the same period.
The new measures will also be integrated with the rapid response teams working with “high exposure incidents.”
“We recognize the importance of face-to-face learning and are committed to ensuring our students can continue to learn as safely as possible by following all appropriate measures to limit the spread of illness,” said Superintendent Dr. Jordan Tinney.
“We will continue to engage with our local and provincial partners at Fraser Health, BCCDC and the provincial government to carefully examine data related to exposures in our schools and community, and further refine and reassess plans and additional measures as needed to keep our staff and students safe and in school.”