Nearly 50 schools on Vancouver Island have been added to an independent website tracking coronavirus exposures since children returned to the classroom last Monday.
According to the B.C. School COVID Tracker website, there have been 84 self-reported COVID-19 exposure notices at 49 different schools on Vancouver Island since school resumed on Jan. 10. The vast majority of schools on the list, 32 to be exact, are located within Greater Victoria, while the remainder are in Nanaimo, the Cowichan Valley, Comox Valley and Port Alberni area.
B.C. School COVID Tracker is a crowd-sourced independent website that has been operating for most of the pandemic. It relies on information provided — and then verified through documentation such as letters and emails — to them by parents, school staff and administrators.
However, since the beginning of the new year, Island Health has stopped listing school exposure notifications on its website, citing Omicron’s higher community transmission levels, shorter incubation period and increased use of rapid tests.
That change has coincided with a shift in the provincial government’s communication strategy and newly updated protocols related to COVID-19 schools, which were announced on Jan. 7, and state that contact tracing and notification are no longer effective in minimizing the spread of the virus.
“I understand that parents and caregivers want to know what is happening with COVID in schools. So, we have worked with public health on a system to ensure that we can continue to provide communication to parents. This is going to look, though, very different from what has been in place before,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We need a proxy to understand what may be happening with COVID in schools and so that proxy will be school attendance.”
As a result, public health will now only notify families about school exposures when attendance drops below normal rates — and what that means depends mainly on the size of the school. The general rule is if school attendance is 10 per cent below what it is usually is in previous years, then a notification will go out. The public will also be notified if there are fewer than 75 per cent of students in a grade in attendance.
Below is a list of schools that have been added to the B.C. School COVID Tracker website between Jan. 10 and Sunday afternoon (Jan. 15).
Some schools appear multiple times on the list, which is indicated below. Schools are listed in alphabetical order. Detailed information regarding the reported exposures can be found here.
GREATER VICTORIA REGION
Arbutus Global Middle School
Campus View Elementary x 2
Central Middle School
Cloverdale Traditional Elementary x 2
Cordova Bay Elementary
David Cameron Elementary x 2
Deep Cove Elementary (North Saanich) x 4
Dunsmuir Middle School
Eagle View Elementary (Victoria)
Esquimalt High x 3
James Bay Community x 2
John Stubbs Elementary and Middle School x 8
Lake Hill Elementary x 2
Lansdowne Middle School x 2
Margaret Jenkins Elementary x 1
Millstream Elementary x 2
Northridge Elementary x 2
Royal Oak Middle School
Sir James Douglas Elementary
Tillicum Community School
View Royal Elementary
Victoria West Elementary
Westmont Montessori School
Cinnabar Valley Elementary
Departure Bay Elementary
Mountain View Elementary x 2
Nanaimo District Secondary x 3
Pauline Haarer Elementary
Alex Aitken Elementary (Duncan) x 3
Chemainus Secondary x 3
George Bonner Elementary (Mill Bay) x 3
Lake Cowichan School
Au Coeur de L’ile
Cumberland Community School
Lake Trail Middle
Alberni District Secondary School x 2
Ecole Des Grands-Cedres
John Howitt Elementary
With files from Jasmine Bala