Monday, January 10, 2022

Back to School charts a new COVID course for SD52 and Annunciation school officials, teachers and students

It's back to School Day for all the students of SD52 with
classes resuming after an additional one week break to the Holiday 
period as schools prepared for additional measures owing to COVID
(photo of Roosevelt from SD52 instagram feed)

With an extra five days to explore the unusual themes of a snow filled Prince Rupert winter now behind them, the students of School District 52 and the city's Catholic Independent School Annunciation head back to the classroom today, and as they do, it's with themes of COVID measures as important as the education curriculum.

Last week, SD52 Superintendent Andrew Samoil outlined how the Prince Rupert School District was approaching the restart of the school year for all students for today.

Individual Schools across the District also have their own restart plans, which you can review from the links provided by the SD52 website.

For staff and students the daily health check is a key element, along with the provisions of the SD52 Communicable Disease Plan, the latter which features the range of preventive measures in place for the return to school.

Those measures outline the plans for space arrangements in the schools, how the District will approach sports and the scope of the Public Health Order on Face Coverings.

The use of face Coverings were among the many areas of note for the provincial Education Minister as well last week, with Jennifer Whiteside joining Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Health Office Doctor Bonnie Henry on Friday for one final briefing on the return to School.

Among her review of the back to school process for this month, included provisions for a return to online education should the situation warrant it in the schools, with the Districts to determine when or if that is necessary.

The Minister also observed how the focus now will shift from contact tracing provisions to that of following closely any attendance trends.

That would seem to indicate that unlike how it was in 2021, any future notice of a COVID situation in the schools won't be identified until a large number of students, or staff members don't come to school for a number of days.

The Minister and Doctor Henry also made note of plans to have rapid tests available for School Districts, though that program is somewhat delayed for the moment, with the expectation of more rapid tests to be delivered to the province in the week, or weeks ahead.

The plans from the Ministry not quite living up to the hopes of the British Columbia Teachers Federation, which outlined their response through President Teri Mooring who delivered the BCTF concerns through video on Friday, some of the membership weighing in following the presentation to express their own concerns over the return to school plan.

A number of the points raised by the BCTF President had previously been noted by the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union in early January, among the calls for action that they had been looking for.

Advocating for the provision of N95-type masks, improved ventilation (including HEPA filters in rooms without adequate filtration or ventilation), and for fast access to boosters so that all school workers can be fully (3-shot) vaccinated. 

Informing students and families of the importance for students (and staff) to remain at home if sick. Alerting students and families to the latest public health requirements for isolation will help keep schools open by reducing transmission in schools and classrooms. 

Insisting that students continue to receive quality in-person education during all phases of the pandemic – including by pushing back on measures that would reduce educational supports for students. Almost all students learn best through in-person teaching, which is why it’s so important for schools to remain safely open. 

The PRDTU has not updated their commentary on the return to school plan since that January 2nd correspondence.

As the weeks move forward with the return to school you can follow any updates or changes to the evolving situation through our local education archive pages, as well as provincially through our political blog D'Arcy McGee and our Victoria Viewpoints News archive.

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