Message from the Superintendent

Amended Public Health Guidance for Schools

Dear families and staff of SD83,

On December 29th, 2021 the Provincial Health Officer amended the provincial health orders and guidelines in response to the Omicron variant which is causing an increased number of COVID-19 cases in our province COVID-19 safe schools – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca). A significant addition to the public health order has the majority of students returning to school on January 10, 2022.

The following students are invited to attend school as of January 4, 2022:

  • Children with exceptional needs (social, emotional, academic, medical), you may choose to bring your child to their school and if your child accesses district transportation, buses will run as usual. Meal programs will also be available for students who require access to them.
  • If you are a parent or legal guardian who works in the healthcare system, you may choose to transport your child to their school or have your child access district transportation as school buses will run as usual.

Please reach out to your child’s school principal if you have questions regarding a January 4th start date for your child. If it is determined that your child(ren) will be returning to school next week, the school principal will invite you to complete a form for district records.

The province has determined that by phasing in the return to school, it will allow time for the district and school staff to increase safety measures that will support students and staff upon return as of January 10, 2022.

The following safety measures will be adhered to:

  • Completing daily health checks;
  • Staff and/or students will be required to stay home when sick;
  • Wearing masks according to the public health order;
  • Avoiding crowding;
  • Maintaining personally respectful spaces between people.

Enhanced measures have been published and the key changes are as follows:

  • Reinforcing the measures as outlined above;
  • Arranging classrooms to ensure maximum space between students and staff;
  • Limiting visitors to the school to those that are supporting activities that are of benefit to student learning and well-being (e.g., teacher candidates, meal program volunteers, etc);
  • Reducing crowding at transition times such as staggered start/stop times, breaks, lunches;
  • Holding student assemblies and staff meetings virtually rather than in person;
  • In keeping with the guidelines, athletic practices are permitted;
  • No spectators or audiences permitted at this time;
  • Pausing school tournaments.

For more details regarding the Ministry plan, please visit COVID-19 safe schools – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca) .

On behalf of the Board of Education and the staff of SD 83, I wish to thank you for your patience and understanding as we adjust to the newly implemented provincial measures. We look forward to seeing your child(ren) return to school and experience personal growth within our district.

Sincerely,

Donna Kriger Superintendent

PDF OF LETTER HERE

In-class learning to resume Jan. 10

A full return to school for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will be delayed until Monday, Jan. 10, in order to give public health and B.C. schools additional time to adapt to the impacts of the Omicron variant on communities and schools, and to implement enhanced safety plans to support the continuation of in-class learning. Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education Adrian Dix, and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the delay at a joint press conference on Wednesday.

During this week, schools will be open for limited numbers of students in particular need. After additional details are known, SD83 will soon be communicating out to local families how this process will work.

At the conference Dr. Bonnie Henry explained that schools have safety protocols in place that have kept students and staff in school over the past two years, but as the pandemic changes, protocols must change, too. “That is why schools will be implementing enhanced public health measures to ensure that in-person learning, that is so important for well-being and mental health, can continue.”

The delayed return is supported by an Order from the Provincial Health Officer, which applies to all public and independent schools in British Columbia. While students will return on Jan. 10, staff will return on Jan. 3 and 4. This will allow schools to implement enhanced safety measures and proactively implement continuity of learning plans.

“We know how important it is for students to return to safe, in-person learning,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “This extra time will allow the Ministry of Education and public health to better understand the impact of the Omicron variant on the education system, and school communities to prepare for students returning to class with enhanced safety measures. Safety is our top priority, and we’re going to keep working with public health to ensure the right measures continue to be in place to keep students and staff safe.”

The Ministry of Education has developed an addendum to the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 settings based on public health’s current knowledge of the Omicron variant. The guidelines were developed in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control, Indigenous rightsholders and education partners, including teachers, parents and school administrators. As the ministry has done throughout the pandemic, safety measures for schools will continue to be updated as needed in consultation with public health.

K-12 schools must reinforce existing safety measures, including:

  • Using all available space to maximize space between people. For example, different common space, classroom and learning environment configurations (e.g., avoid face-to-face seating arrangements where possible).
  • Everyone able to wear a mask
  • Doing daily health checks, and staying home when sick.

K-12 public and independent schools must also implement enhanced safety measures, such as:

  •  Implement strategies that prevent crowding during class transition times.
  •  Hold school gatherings and events (e.g., assemblies, etc.) virtually. If they must be in- person, limit the number of people to no more than 50% operating capacity.
  •  Hold staff-only gatherings (e.g., meetings, professional development activities) virtually whenever possible.
  •  Limit visitors to those who are supporting activities that directly benefit student learning and well-being (e.g., teacher candidates, immunizers, meal program volunteers, etc.).
  •  Pause extracurricular sports tournaments.

The guidelines build on existing protocols that have succeeded in minimizing the spread of the virus in schools, such as:

As the Province awaits new rapid tests shipments from the federal government, B.C.s existing supply of rapid tests will continue to be used at schools where there has been exposure events and outbreaks. When new federal shipments of take-home rapid tests arrive in mid-January, their use will be scaled up with 500,000 tests deployed as needed to support the safe continuation of in-person learning. Transmission in B.C. schools reflects transmission in the community and schools with consistently implemented prevention measures have proven to be lower risk throughout the pandemic.

The government is committed to continuing to support safe in-person education in recognition of its positive impact on the intellectual, social and emotional development of students. Schools also provide important supports for children, such as meal programs and mental-health supports.

Learn More

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/children

To see the addendum to the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/safe- caring-orderly/k-12-covid-19-health-safety-guidelines-addendum.pdf

Vaccine now available for 5 and older

SD83 would like to share the information that the COVID-19 vaccination is now authorized by Health Canada for children five and older.

SD83 is supporting the efforts of Interior Health by sharing information about the vaccine and vaccine program from the BC Centre for Disease Control. Interior Health would like to stress that NO CHILD in this age group can be vaccinated without the parent/guardian pre-registering their child.

For further information: https://conta.cc/31yHkko