A Safe Return to School in the Fraser Health Region

May 27, 2020

A Letter from From Fraser Health

 

Dear School Administrators, Staff, Students and Parents,

Through careful evidence-based planning by public health experts and in accordance with BC’s Restart Plan, students can voluntarily return to school on a part-time basis starting June 1, 2020. With effective public health measures in place, BC has done an excellent job of decreasing the community spread of COVID-19.

Scientific evidence on COVID-19 has guided the provincial response to school reopening. Data has shown that children and youth are at a much lower risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, and if they become infected, they generally have milder symptoms. Children primarily get sick from other household members, and not from school settings. There is also no conclusive evidence that children who are asymptomatic pose a risk to other children or to adults.

The Public Health Guidance for K-12 School Settings provides strong guidance and measures for schools in British Columbia in order to maintain the health and safety of staff and students while at school.

As outlined in the guidance, school administrators, staff, students and parents can contribute to the health and safety of the school environment through important measures, including:

 

1. Staying Home When Sick

  • All staff and students who have symptoms of COVID-19 OR travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days OR were identified as a close contact of a confirmed case or outbreak must stay home and self-isolate.
  • Staff must assess themselves daily, and parents and caregivers must assess their child daily for symptoms of COVID-19, common cold, influenza, or other respiratory disease before going to school.
  • If a student or staff becomes ill at school, they must go home as soon as possible.
  • There is no public health restriction from working in the school environment due to age, medical conditions or pregnancy. Children and adults with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions should talk to their family physician to understand the risks of COVID-19 and what additional precautions they should take for their situation.

2. Performing Diligent Hand Hygiene

  • Thorough hand washing with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to reduce the spread of illness.
  • Where sinks are unavailable, use alcohol-based hand rubs with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Hand hygiene should be practiced throughout the day and especially upon arrival at school, before and after any breaks, before and after eating and drinking, after using the toilet, after sneezing or coughing into hands, and whenever hands are visibly dirty.

3. Practicing Respiratory and Personal Hygiene

  • Staff and students should cough or sneeze into their elbow sleeve or a tissue, refrain from touching their face with unwashed hands, and refrain from sharing any food, drinks or unwashed utensils.
  • Wearing masks at school is not recommended, as there is no current evidence of their effectiveness at school. Wearing a mask is a personal choice.

4. Physical Distancing and Minimizing Physical Contact

  • Physical distancing strategies are implemented where possible, such as re-arranging desks, organizing students into smaller groups, staggering pick-up and drop-off times, staggering breaks, incorporating more outdoor learning activities, and avoiding physical contact. Outdoor playgrounds are a safe environment, and appropriate hand hygiene practices should be used before, during and after outdoor play.
  • Assemblies and other school-wide events should be held virtually to avoid a large number of people gathered in one space.
  • Some students will require one-on-one support. This care should continue to be provided and appropriate hand hygiene and cleaning measures should be practiced. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not required when working in close proximity with students, unless they are used by staff as part of regular precautions, such as when cleaning blood or bodily fluids.

5. Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Regular cleaning and disinfection are essential to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 from contaminated objects and surfaces. Schools should be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with the BCCDC’s Cleaning and Disinfectants for Public Settings document.
  • General cleaning and disinfecting of schools should occur at least once a day, and frequently touched surfaced should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day.

 

If someone displays symptoms of COVID-19 or is concerned, they can call 8-1-1 or use the online self-assessment tool, bc.thrive.health. If a student or a school staff member tests positive for COVID-19, public health staff will ensure there is robust contact tracing and management of any clusters or outbreaks. They will also ensure that children, staff and parents have access to health care providers and that appropriate supports are in place.

If school administrators, staff, students or parents have questions, you can contact the Fraser Health Population and Public Health COVID Call Centre at 604-918-7532.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ingrid Tyler
Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority

 

May 27, 2020: Letter from superintendent Russell to 2020 graduating class families

Dear 2020 graduating class families,

We are certainly sharing a very unusual time with you and finding meaningful and safe ways to celebrate our graduating classes of 2020 this June is challenging.

For most graduates, it is the chance to toss their mortar boards high into the air with their classmates or to take group pictures with their friends and loved ones in their caps and gowns that makes commencement meaningful. For staff, families and friends, it is the coming together of the class to recognize their achievements that makes commencement special.

With this in mind, our secondary schools are moving forward with planning to hold the 2020 commencement event once the Provincial Health Officer lifts restrictions on the size of gatherings. We will look for ceremony dates that fall close to holidays when students who are away for studies or work are more likely to be home with their friends and families. The work on virtual ceremonies is already well underway and these will continue as planned.

There are many attempts being made throughout the province to make the year-end celebrations as meaningful as possible, but in the end, it is our connections with this class and their connections with each other that are important. We want to honour and recognize these connections by holding our 2020 commencement events once times are safer rather than making attempts to replicate the traditional commencement ceremony now in ways that might present a risk to our students, families, staff and community.

Secondary school principals will keep in touch with you and this graduating class to establish dates in the upcoming school year for the grad 2020 commencement once Dr. Henry indicates that it is safe to do so. It was not unusual in the past for schools to hold their commencement ceremonies in the fall of the following year. This was done with great success and made the scholarships and bursaries that much more meaningful since students were actually on their way into their lives as young adults.

Thank you for your patience as we develop our plans for this graduating class. All schools and the two cities are working with us to do the best we can in virtual ways to celebrate with our students this June.

We hope to see all of you soon at an actual commencement ceremony in safer times.

Sincerely,

Sylvia Russell
Superintendent

May 15, 2020: Letter to families from superintendent Sylvia Russell

Dear families,

This morning, Minister of Education Rob Fleming announced that all schools in BC will be moving to Stage 3 of BC’s Restart Plan. As a result, effective June 1, 2020, families will have the choice of bringing their children back to class on a part-time basis. The goal is to return to full-time classes in September 2020, provided it is safe to do so. For your information, Stage 3 includes the following:

  • Kindergarten to Grade 5: in-class learning 2 to 3 days per week, supplemented with remote instruction.
  • Grades 6 to 12: in-class learning 1 day a week, supplemented with remote instruction.
  • Children of essential service workers (aged 5-12), students with disabilities/diverse abilities, and students needing additional supports: option to attend school 5 days per week.
  • Families who decide not to send their children to class: continued remote instruction until the end of the 2019/20 school year (June 1 to 24 for most schools; June 1 to July 21 for Kanaka Creek Elementary).

The details of Minister Fleming’s announcement are captured in the attached news release. A video of today’s press conference is also available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96E1NAVD_iU&feature=emb_logo.

The safety of students and staff is always our top priority. During Stage 3, all district schools and facilities will operate under the strict guidelines developed by the Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control. A copy of these guidelines is attached. Additionally, our approved return-to-class and safety plans will be posted to the district website once they are approved by the Ministry of Education and before our schools reopen.

Next Steps

To help us plan for the start of Stage 3 services, please take our brief survey to let us know if your child(ren) will be accessing in-class learning beginning June 1, 2020, or if they will be continuing with remote instruction for the remainder of the school year. Please carefully review the attached documents and/or watch Minister Fleming’s press conference video before taking the survey so that you can make an informed decision.

The survey, which you can find at https://letstalksd42.ca/voluntary-return-to-school-survey, CLOSES at 4 pm on May 20, 2020.

TAKE THE SURVEY NOW

 

As soon as we have had an opportunity to review the survey results, your child’s school principal will provide you with additional details related to attendance schedules and procedures.

Essential Service Workers

Children of essential service workers who have been accessing childcare and educational programming will be returning to their home school before June 1, 2020. Assistant superintendent Ken Cober will provide families registered in the Essential Service Worker program with details in the coming week.

Food Hamper Program

The school district will continue with its food hamper program until the end of June for families who have been accessing this service.

Transportation: Regular and Special Needs

Information about regular student transportation and transportation for students with special needs will be provided in the coming week.

 

Over the next two weeks, we will be finalizing our operational plan and submitting it to the ministry for approval. You will have an opportunity to review our approved operational plan before our schools reopen on June 1.

I would like to thank you once again for your patience and your resilience during this challenging time. I sincerely look forward to welcoming our students back to our schools, even if it is only on a part-time basis.

Sincerely,

Sylvia Russell
Superintendent

Apr 3, 2020: Letter from superintendent Sylvia Russell

Dear families,

As we find ourselves on the other side of spring break in this unusual new context, I wanted to reach out to provide you with a few updates and to thank you for your support and patience. We have been working hard to prepare meaningful learning opportunities for our students while ensuring the health and safety of our school communities.

For some of our staff, the shift to a virtual classroom will not be new; for many, however, the rapid change to a new format of instruction may be more challenging. Thankfully we have a school district ethos of collaboration and support that is the very cornerstone of our mission, vision and values. I see our instructional staff forming teams, supporting each other, and investigating the power of remote instruction. At the same time, we recognize the uniqueness of each individual and will work to ensure that we provide diverse learning opportunities for students who may not be able to engage meaningfully in the virtual space.

It is our goal to contact every student in our school district this week to check in and assess what supports we will need to put into place so that we can provide a meaningful and safe learning experience for all of our students. I know that our staff are looking forward to reconnecting with students.

We are also working hard to set up school-based educational programming for children of essential services workers. We consider it a privilege to contribute in this way and are quickly moving forward with this important work.

Essential Worker Survey is Now Closed

Thank you to all parents who completed our essential worker survey. This survey closed at 4 pm on Monday and staff are now reviewing all responses.

At this time, the provincial government has directed that school districts prioritize the provision of childcare and on-site educational services to children of tier one essential service workers in the health care sector. We will be reaching out to families who qualify for and require this service by end of today, Friday, April 3. If you are a tier one essential service worker in the health care sector requiring this service but you did not complete our survey, please contact us at register@sd42.ca.

Reconnecting with Students

As I mentioned in my letter last week, your child’s teacher will be reconnecting with you and your child this week. The purpose of these initial conversations will be to get a sense of what your child’s unique needs may be and how we can best meet those needs in this new context. Teachers who have experience working in virtual classrooms will already be taking steps to provide students with learning opportunities and remote instructional support; teachers who are new to this way of teaching will be engaging with students next week and moving forward, but no later than mid-April.

If your child needs access to the school to retrieve an essential item that is required for learning (e.g. a device, a musical instrument, glasses), please advise your school principal by email or phone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finally, I wanted to remind you that we now have a collection of frequently asked questions on the school district website at https://www.sd42.ca/faq/. We have already received many questions from students, parents/guardians and staff, and have been adding the answers to our growing list on this page. The search feature on this page allows you to sort through the existing questions/answers. You can also submit any question(s) not on the list and we will post the answer(s) within 24-48 hours.

We continue to work hard to restructure our approaches to instruction so that we can support your children. It has been a challenging exercise but the work has had some joyous moments – found mostly in the reconnection of our staff to our students.

I hope that you, your family, and your friends are staying well.

Sylvia Russell
Superintendent

Mar 17, 2020: Letter from superintendent Sylvia Russell

Dear families,

This afternoon, the provincial government announced that it would be indefinitely suspending all in-class instruction for BC’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 learners. This means that schools will NOT be opening after spring break for regular daily instruction. This temporary measure is being put in place to help keep students, staff, families and wider community safe as the province responds to the COVID-19 outbreak.

I know you will have many questions about what this announcement will mean for you and your family.

I have attached for you a letter from Minister Fleming, in which you will find additional information about this decision. In the letter, Minister Fleming stresses that every student will receive a final mark, that all students on track to graduate this year will graduate, and that the province is working with post-secondary institutions to ensure the transition for our grade 12 graduates is supported.

The letter also outlines a number of key directives for school districts. School districts are expected to:

  • begin planning for continuity of learning;
  • develop plans to maintain some level of service for children whose parents are performing essential services;
  • address the question of important services like school meal programs and childcare services operating on school grounds.

Our school district has already begun some of this planning work as a part of our Pandemic Response Plan. We will provide you with additional information as soon as these plans are more fully develop and will continue to update you through the parent portal and the school district website at https://www.sd42.ca/coronavirus-district-response/.

For information about COVID-19, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19.

I know these are challenging and uncertain times, but I am confident we will get through them together. Thank you for your patience as we work through this evolving situation.

Sincerely,

Sylvia Russell
Superintendent of Schools