October 1, 2021: Important update to the provincial K-12 mask mandate

Dear families,

This morning, Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced an important update to the Public Health Communicable Disease Guidance for K-12 Schools and the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings. I am writing to inform you about this change and to update you on the notification process for school exposures.

Update to face coverings mandate

The provincial government has announced that beginning Monday, October 4, 2021, all students in B.C. schools will be required to wear a mask when inside a school building, including while at their desks and on buses. This builds on the existing guidelines that currently apply to all students in grades 4-12. Learn more about this change to the face coverings mandate in the Ministry of Education news release.

Because we recognize that many students in grades K-3 may not be used to wearing masks, teachers will spend October 4 and 5 helping children adjust to this change, with the goal of building mask wearing into student routines by Wednesday, October 6. We suggest you send your K-3 child to school with a clean mask and a spare mask that they are used to wearing. Schools will have disposable masks available.

As a reminder, provincial guidance advises that mask requirements do not apply to staff, students and visitors in the following circumstances:

  • A person cannot tolerate wearing a mask for health or behavioural reasons;
  • A person is unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person;
  • If the mask is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it;
  • If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask;
  • If a person is eating or drinking;
  • If a person is behind a barrier; or
  • While providing a service to a person with a disability or diverse ability where visual cues, facial expressions and/or lip reading/movements is important.

The guidelines stipulate that schools must not require a health-care provider note to confirm if staff, students or visitors cannot wear a mask, and that no student should be prevented from attending or fully participating at school if they do not wear a mask.

 

Change to notification process for school exposures

The provincial government also made a change to the notification process for school exposures, directing local health authorities to begin posting general school exposure notifications to their websites. You can find exposure notifications for our school district and the Fraser Health region more broadly on the Fraser Health school exposures page. For a helpful overview of the contact tracing process for school exposures, visit the BC CDC website.

Thank you for your continued support,

Sincerely,

Harry Dhillon
Superintendent of Schools

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Truth and Reconciliation Week

Dear families,

The Government of Canada recently designated September 30th a statutory holiday named the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in recognition of the lasting harm residential schools have had on Indigenous communities. We ask students, staff, and families to use this opportunity to reflect on the profound injustice of residential schools and ensure that the intergenerational trauma suffered by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit families is not forgotten.

As part of Truth and Reconciliation Week (September 27 to October 1), the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District will lower flags to half-mast at all facilities and students and staff are asked to wear orange. We also want to acknowledge the work of our Aboriginal Education Department, which has been instrumental in supporting teachers with resources and activities for in-class learning and discussion. We encourage families to explore these resources available on the Aboriginal Education Department website, some of which have likely already been seen by your child depending on their age.

This year has been particularly difficult for Indigenous people across Canada. In May, Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation announced they had located the remains of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Since then, numerous other suspected graves have been located across the country with the use of ground-penetrating radar.

As the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation approaches, our district is committed to creating safe spaces for healing for Indigenous students and staff. We also want to ensure all students of ancestry are provided with the support and care they need as they undertake their educational journey. Through education, awareness, and understanding, our district can learn from the rich cultural history of the First Peoples of Canada and make certain that the human rights abuses associated with forced assimilation are not forgotten.

Sincerely,

Korleen Carreras, Chairperson, Board of Education
Harry Dhillon, Superintendent of Schools

Fraser Health: Routine immunizations for school-age children

Dear families,

Please see the communication below from Fraser Health regarding routine immunizations for school-age children.

Communication from Fraser Health

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Re: B.C.’s Vaccination Status Reporting Regulation for Students

B.C.’s Vaccination Status Reporting Regulation for children has been in effect since July 2019. This regulation supports the gathering of immunization records by Fraser Health for all students in all schools across the region within the province’s jurisdiction and to offer immunizations in school settings.

We care about keeping our schools and communities healthy. As a result, in the coming months our staff will check the immunization records we have on file for children in kindergarten. They will identify children whose records are missing or incomplete. Families of these children may be contacted.

For students in grades 6, 7, 9 and 10 – this school year Fraser Health will offer immunizations in the school setting to Grade 6 and 9 students from the last school year (20/21) and Grade 6 and 9 students from this school year (21/22).

Our staff will follow COVID-19 safety processes when delivering immunizations and interacting with school staff and students. Prior to immunization, students will be sent home with a personalized consent form for immunization. Please review your child’s immunization history on the consent form and if you have additional immunization records please submit them to public health at fraserhealth.ca/immunizationform.

For students in all other grades (includes grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 12) – please check your child’s immunization records and provide us with any missing immunization information required under the regulation, with the following guidance:

  • You can use the online Vaccination Status Indicator Tool at https://immunizebc.ca/vaccination-status-indicator to check if your child’s immunization record is incomplete or missing. The Indicator tells you if your child’s immunization record is on file with public health but does not provide any details about their immunization status or history. Health authority public health units already have immunization information on file for most children.
    • If the Vaccine Status Indicator shows that your child’s immunization records are up-to-date, then you do not need to take further action.
    • If the Vaccine Status Indicator shows that your child’s immunization records are pending, no action is required at this time. These records are in the process of being inputted into the system and may take some time to be entered.
    • If the Vaccine Status Indicator shows that your child’s immunization records are incomplete, this means either public health does not have your child’s records or your child needs additional immunizations. If your child has been immunized by a health care provider outside of public health, particularly in the last 18 months, you need to contact those providers and ask for a copy of your child’s immunization record. Please follow the instructions below to submit these records to public health.
  • To report your child’s immunization record you can submit it online at fraserhealth.ca/immunizationform or fax the record to your local public health unit. Be sure the record you are submitting has your child’s full name, date of birth, sex, and personal health number (PHN) if the PHN is available. Records can also be provided to a community health nurse in a First Nations community.
  • If your child needs additional immunizations, please call your family doctor, a pharmacist or public health to book an appointment.
  • Visit fraserhealth.ca/getimmunized for a list of community vaccine providers.
  • To book an appointment with public health, call:
    • 604-702-4906 (residents of Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope)
    • 604-476-7087 (residents in all other areas of Fraser Health)

Collecting immunization information allows us to connect with families about the importance of disease prevention. It also helps public heath to control outbreaks by quickly identifying children who are not fully immunized and helps everyone get back to learning as soon as possible.

For more immunization information, please visit our website at Fraserhealth.ca and search “child immunizations reporting”.

Thank you for

September 13, 2021: Update for families from Fraser Health

Dear families,

As the school year gets underway, I am writing to share with you a back to school update from Fraser Health. Much of the information in this update will not be new for you, as I spoke to it in my August 27 letter. The update does address, however, the revised provincial notification process for school exposures. While Fraser Health will continue to work with schools to identify close contacts and to share targeted self-monitor and/or self-isolation notices with the appropriate students and staff, there will no longer be general school-wide exposure notifications to school communities. This decision was made by the provincial health officer.

Please review the update below from Fraser Health carefully. For your convenience, the revised COVID-19 notification procedures have also been published to the school district website.

Sincerely,

Harry Dhillon
Superintendent of Schools

 

Communication from Fraser Health

On August 24, 2021, the province announced new K-12 COVID-19 safety guidelines for 2021/22. Below we have highlighted some of the key changes, as well as what we can expect to remain the same from last year.

COVID-19 exposure at school:

As per provincial direction, public health will notify staff and students who need to take a specific action, such as self-monitoring or self-isolation, as a result of a COVID-19 exposure. The school community will be notified when appropriate, such as in the case of an outbreak, and this will be posted to our website. Public health will continue to provide contact tracing for all positive cases of COVID-19 in schools:

  • If a student or staff member is confirmed to have COVID-19, and were potentially infectious while they were at school, public health will investigate to determine if there were any potential close contacts within the school.
  • If it is determined that there are close contacts within the school, public health will notify the school administrators and request information to assist with contact tracing and provide guidance on what steps should be taken.
  • Public health may then:
    • Recommend 14-day self-isolation if necessary
    • Recommend self-monitoring for symptoms if necessary
    • Provide follow-up recommendations if necessary
  • Schools will ensure students who are required to self-isolate are able to continue their educational program. Together, schools and public health officials will determine if any other actions are necessary.
  • Parents, caregivers and families will be notified by public health if their child is determined to be a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person.

 

Vaccination:

  • Vaccination is the best way to protect our communities and ourselves. Vaccination protects both those who get vaccinated and those who are not yet eligible for vaccinations, such as youth under 12 years of age. Everyone 12 and older is encouraged to walk in to any of our vaccine clinics for same-day immunization as soon as possible. Clinic locations are available at fraserhealth.ca/vax.
  • Health and safety measures – such as daily health checks, hand washing and the use of masks –are in effect at schools to protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
  • For more information on youth immunization, please review the BCCDC Q&A document, or visit the province of B.C. and BCCDC web resources for more information.

 

Masks:

  • At this time, all K to 12 staff, students in grades 4 to 12, and visitors should wear masks in all indoor areas, including at their desks and on school buses.
  • Mask use for students in kindergarten to grade three is encouraged.

 

Daily health checks:

 

In-classroom learning:

  • Strict physical distancing and cohorting is no longer required. However, schools can continue to create space between people by spreading people out where possible, managing flow of people in common areas to prevent crowding, taking students outside as much as possible and reminding students and staff about respecting others’ physical space.
  • Schools should continue to apply effective prevention measures such as cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, ensuring ventilation systems are working properly and providing frequent opportunities for hand hygiene.

 

Resources:

For more guidance and information to support children and youth in school during COVID-19, visit fraserhealth.ca/schools. For general school health resources, please see our Healthy Back to School Guide.

Additional COVID-19 school information and resources can be found on the government of B.C.’s COVID-19 safe school web page and the BCCDC’s K-12 Schools and COVID-19 web page. As we prepare for the new school year together, Fraser Health remains dedicated to working in close collaboration with our network of partners across all levels of the education system to keep students, teachers and our communities safe.

August 27, 2021: Letter to families from Superintendent Harry Dhillon

Dear families,

I hope you are enjoying a bright, restful, and safe summer! We are looking forward to welcoming your children back to school. As we prepare for the beginning of the 2021/22 school year, I am writing to let you know about an important change to this year’s district school calendar, to provide information about the schedule for the first day of school, and to update you on the health and safety measures that will be in place across all our schools and facilities. [Read more…]

Superintendent’s letter to 2021 graduating students and their families

Dear students and families of the 2021 graduating class,

As we approach the end of this unusual school year, I am reaching out to share with you an overview of the guidance school districts have received to date from public health with respect to 2021 graduation ceremonies. This guidance was developed in consultation with the Ministry of Education, the BC Centre for Disease Control, and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

The key considerations identified by public health are as follows:

  • Graduation ceremonies are considered a “learning activity,” and as such fall under the Provincial COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.
  • Weather permitting, outside ceremonies are preferred to indoor ceremonies.
  • At this time, no persons may be present as a spectator, unless the presence of the person is necessary in order to provide care for the participant. Parents will consequently not be able to attend in person.
  • Dances, dinners, or associated dry grad events are not permitted at this time, as such events fall under the provincial Gathering and Events Order.
  • Virtual and drive-thru/drive-in ceremonies are an alternative. Guidance for this type of event is included in the Gathering and Events Order.
  • In addition to the five key considerations listed above, public health also clarified that staff and students will be required to wear masks indoors as per current guidelines, except when the students are in the act of receiving their diploma (i.e. crossing the stage). Although there are no requirements to wear masks in outdoor settings, schools are expected to support and encourage students and staff to wear masks at outdoor graduation ceremonies.

I know that our secondary schools have already begun tentatively planning for 2021 grad celebrations, and that they built flexibility into this planning work so that they could adjust to any changes to provincial guidelines and orders. Your child’s school will be reaching out to you in the coming days and weeks to provide you with more detailed information about the planned activities and their timelines. Thank you for your patience as our schools finalize their plans to recognize our graduating students in safe and meaningful ways.

Finally, a sincere congratulations to our graduates on achieving this important milestone during a particularly challenging time. I look forward to seeing the graduates of 2021 receive their diplomas as they prepare to take the next step in their journey.

Sincerely,

Harry Dhillon
Superintendent

Fraser Health COVID-19 School Update

Keep our schools safe for staff and students

As COVID-19 continues to be a concern, we know many of you have questions about the safety of our schools. It’s important to remember that COVID-19 in schools is a direct reflection of the number of cases in the wider community. Fraser Health has been supporting schools to manage COVID-19 exposures and is grateful for the commitment schools have made to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by following health and safety plans.

While COVID-19 has been challenging for all, educators and families have shown resilience and adaptability. Together, we can ensure schools remain a safe and welcoming environment for staff and students. We must all follow public health measures to reduce our chance of getting sick and bringing the virus into the school.

How can I prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools?

For parents:

  • Only socialize with the people you live with.
  • Do not invite friends or family to your house.
  • Do not host or go to play dates.
  • Help older family members learn to connect with others online.
  • Remind everyone to wash their hands and avoid touching their face.
  • Wear a mask when in public indoor spaces.
  • Learn about ways to wear a mask with a head covering.

For staff and students:

  • Do a daily health check and stay home when sick.
  • Get tested, even with mild symptoms.
  • If you need to self-isolate, stay away from others in your household.
  • Follow your school’s safety plan.
  • Wash hands and stay physically distant where possible.
  • Stay within your own cohort or learning group where possible.

Your Questions Answered

Dr. Ariella Zbar, Fraser Health Medical Health Officer, answers some of our most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and schools.

Interested in learning more? Visit our school exposures page for more Q&As. Translated versions are available in: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Hindi and Punjabi.

Is it safe for my child to attend school?

Schools have multiple layers of infection prevention and control measures that are put in place by school leadership teams with the support of public health. Examples of these measures include ventilation, cleaning, set-up of classrooms, limiting the number of interactions at school, as well as personal protective measures such as hand hygiene and masking. It is important to remember that school exposures are a reflection of COVID-19 transmission in the community. The more transmission we see in the community, the more likely it is that COVID-19 positive cases will come to school.

What happens if there is a COVID-19 exposure at my school?

In the event there is a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at your school:

  • The school district, school and parents will be notified that a person confirmed to have COVID-19 attended the school while infectious.
  • A classroom, learning group or cohort may be asked to self-monitor for signs and symptoms.
  • Close contacts will be identified by Public Health and asked to self-isolate.

What does it mean if my school receives an Early Exposure Letter from Fraser Health?

If you receive this letter, it means an individual at your school is confirmed to have COVID-19. This letter lets you know that Public Health is aware of this and we are completing our case and contact management. It does not mean your child is at increased risk of COVID-19. Please continue to attend school. If through our investigation we identify anyone who was directly exposed and are at increased risk of COVID-19, we will contact you directly soon after you receive the notification letter.

Why can there be so much time between the school exposure dates and receiving an Early Notification Letter?

It is important to understand there will always be a time gap between an early notification and an exposure date. This is because of the time it takes for a person to develop symptoms, realize they are sick, get tested and receive their results. Contact tracing begins when lab results are received by Public Health. For a school exposure, contact tracing is typically complete within 48 hours. For this reason, it is imperative that staff and students are tested as early as possible, even with mild symptoms. This way, we receive the results sooner and can act sooner.

Together we can keep our schools safe.

Interested in learning more? Visit our school resources for parents and teachers page. For testing information, visit fraserhealth.ca/covid19testing.

Fraser Health COVID-19 School Update – winter 2021 (PDF)

Fraser Health: Early notification process during winter break

Medical Health Officer Dr. Ariella Zbar has provided the following letter for school communities in the Fraser Valley region regarding school exposure notifications over spring break: School Exposure Notification During Winter Break.pdf

SD42 selects new superintendent

Current Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District No. 42 Deputy Superintendent Harry Dhillon has been selected for the top job of Superintendent of Schools.

Dhillon, who has been with the district for more than 32 years, will take over for Superintendent Sylvia Russell, who is retiring on Jan. 31, 2021.

“I am proud to serve this incredible community in which I have lived much of my adult life and where I have spent my career,” said Dhillon, who holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Education from Simon Fraser University. [Read more…]