School District 57 says local schools were safe, even before sweeping new health orders were imposed by Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry Thursday.
She made wearing masks mandatory in indoor public places across B.C. The order, however, does not pertain to schools.
“As a board, we have to ask ourselves what problem we are trying to fix in schools,” said board chair Trent Derrick in a release posted on the school district website. “There is abundant evidence that schools are safe. Students and staff within school are safe. It is clear our health authority approved safety plans and protocols are working.”
The district makes several points in response to the new orders issued yesterday:
- It appears the provincial health officer is focusing on higher risk activities in our communities which supports keeping school healthy.
- Evidence is that schools are four times safer than our general communities with only about 540 of more than 22,000 cases in our province being connected to a school.
- Schools are rarely seen to be environments of transmission … only 12 cases in the province have results from an exposure at a school.
- People are more likely to acquire COVID-19 outside the school through their social networks than in school.
- Masks are mandatory in School District 57 secondary schools. There are structured times during the school day where students may have the opportunity to be mask-free if they choose to be.
- Masks are required in certain situations in elementary school and are optional at other times.
- There is no best way to protect yourself
- There are many layers of protection and for schools, it is important that anyone with symptoms stays home and that everyone in our schools follow the strict cleaning and hygiene protocols.
“The cleaning and hygiene protocols we have in place in our schools work,” Derrick said. “As mentioned earlier, there is very limited evidence across the province that schools have been a source of transmission as a result of the health and safety protocols we strictly follow.”
Northern Health currently lists seven schools in northern B.C. as having had COVID-19 exposures.
Schools superintendent Anita Richardson added that the restrictions have an impact on students and that schools should remain open.
“Children and youth have been disproportionately impacted by the controls the province has put in place,” she said. “Their mental health is a serious concern and it is important that schools remain safe and open in order to maintain some sense of normalcy … (I am) pleased that the B.C. government is researching the impacts COVID-19 is having on the mental health of not only our youth, but our communities.”