Students sit together at the relocated New Westminster Secondary School, in New Westminster, B.C., on Thursday, October 14, 2021. An official opening of the new school was held on Thursday near the now shuttered former school which was built on a cemetery in the 1940s. The cemetery was used as a potter’s field where the bodies of prisoners, the poor and unidentifiable residents were buried. The land was also used by Indigenous, Chinese and Sikh communities to bury those who died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Students sit together at the relocated New Westminster Secondary School, in New Westminster, B.C., on Thursday, October 14, 2021. An official opening of the new school was held on Thursday near the now shuttered former school which was built on a cemetery in the 1940s. The cemetery was used as a potter’s field where the bodies of prisoners, the poor and unidentifiable residents were buried. The land was also used by Indigenous, Chinese and Sikh communities to bury those who died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

K-12 students head back to school in B.C. amid new COVID notification system

Parents to only be notified of exposures when attendance drops below ‘typical’ rates

Hundreds of thousands of students are headed back to school on Monday (Jan. 10) amid high COVID-19 case counts and an Omicron surge.

Much about this return to school will be the same as it was in the fall – masks required and daily health checks – but some areas, like the notification system for COVID-19 exposures and cases, will be different.

On Friday, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said that parents will only be notified of COVID exposures in schools when attendance drops below what she called “typical rates.”

If that happens, she said that public health could deploy additional measures like rapid testing. Parents are being asked to notify their schools if their children test positive for COVID-19 via a rapid test – these results are not reported in the daily COVID case counts – or if they are staying home due to illness.

Whiteside said that while the goal was for students to be in classroom, families should prepare for that to fluctuate.

“This means that learning at home may need to be in place for some students over the coming weeks or months,” she said.

Schools will be open this week with “re-enforced” safety measures, Whiteside said, which includes providing three-layer masks, staggering break times, reducing crowding, restricting visitors and shifting to virtual assemblies and staff meetings. Children ages five and up are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

READ MORE: B.C. to deploy rapid COVID-19 tests for school staff when they arrive

READ MORE: BCTF calls for N95s, boosters, enhanced ventilation to curb Omicron spread in schools


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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