Will more Delta schools join Jarvis?

Will other Delta schools soon join the first Fraser Health was forced to shut down due to COVID-19?

A cluster of cases occurred at Jarvis Elementary, prompting the health region last weekend to close that North Delta school for two weeks. The listed dates of exposure were Nov. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9.

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A couple of other Metro Vancouver schools were also closed at the same time due to outbreaks or clusters.

The health authority said it is working closely with the Delta School District to manage the situation at Jarvis where six COVID-19-positive cases were identified.

The health region explained the closure was due to the staffing challenges presented by the cluster.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health last Friday also issued an early notification letter for a COVID-19 exposure at Richardson Elementary, stating that an individual who attended the school on Nov. 4 and 5 had tested positive for COVID-19. The person infected is self-isolating at home.

The early notification letter to parents advises parents on the next steps following the exposure, stating the public health authority has initiated contact tracing to identify any staff and or students that need to self-isolate or self-monitor for symptoms.

Fraser Health will only phone staff and students that have been identified as needing to self-isolate for 14 days from when they were exposed.

The increasing number of cases in B.C. prompted B.C. Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring to call on the province act swiftly, noting teachers, support staff and students need to be able to physically distance.

“With class sizes as they are now, teachers find it virtually impossible to maintain physical distancing in classrooms. Some school districts such as Vancouver have already reduced their class size to 15 students to enforce safe spaces, a limit that ought to be immediately implemented in all school districts in the Fraser Health region. This position is strongly held by all BC teachers; a motion to this effect was passed over the weekend at the BCTF’s Representative Assembly, a body comprised of 300 teachers elected from across the province,” Mooring wrote to Premier John Horgan.

The Delta school district has not initiated smaller class sizes, instead following the direction of public health authorities.

In a letter to parents last week, Delta district superintendent Doug Sheppard gave a reminder of safety procedures everyone should follow.

He also noted students have adapted extremely well to health and safety protocols.

Throughout the school day, staff take great care to ensure students are kept within their learning groups/cohorts, including ensuring that students are not socializing with students from outside their cohort during recess and lunch break or, if they are, ensuring they maintain two metres distance from them, he explained.

Meanwhile, the BCTF last week also said it was encouraged by several recommendations made by the Labour Relations Board after the union filed an application in September over health and safety concerns in schools.

The recommendations do not address the BCTF’s calls for a mandatory mask policy, however.

In a previous interview, Susan Yao, president of the Delta Teachers' Association, said teachers want faster testing and faster confirmation of cases in an effort to decrease the lag time between an exposure event and the public notification.

Yao also wants to see masks required in all classrooms.

Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Ministry of Education this week confirmed they're looking at the option of starting the winter school break early to reduce the spread of the virus.

Fraser Health updates its school exposure cases on its website at fraserhealth.ca.

As of the start of this week, Burnsview, Delta Secondary, Sands Secondary as well as Gray and Heath elementary schools reported exposure events in addition to the cluster at Jarvis.

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