Low numbers in first week of phased return to school for south Island districts

Low numbers in first week of phased return to school for south Island districts

Three school districts on south Vancouver Island reported their attendance was lower than usual, as expected for the phased return to school.

Following the winter break, K-12 students were originally set to return on Jan. 3, but the B.C. government announced on Dec. 29 that the province will instead do a delayed return to classes.

The delayed return was announced in order for school officials and public health more time to implement safety plans to reflect the more easily transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) had the highest number of students return to classes, with 1,500 of their usual 20,000 across 48 schools in the district.

Sooke School District (SD 62) had roughly 250 students out of their usual 12,000 population return. Scott Stinson, superintendent of the district notes that about 200 of those students were at the elementary level.

Saanich School District (SD 63) had up to 220 of their usual 8,000 return to classes during the week.

All three districts noted they had no students in attendance on Thursday, which was a snow day.

READ MORE: Expert pushes back on Bonnie Henry’s claims schools are not a major source of transmission

On Friday, the province announced they would be moving ahead with the full return to in-class learning in K-12 schools despite record high COVID-19 numbers.

The return to class will be with “enhanced safety measures” including the provision of three-layer disposable masks, measures to reduce crowding such as virtual assemblies and staff meetings, staggered break times and restriction of visitors.

Students will also be provided with a refresher on the importance of mask etiquette.

Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s education minister, also announced there would no longer be contact tracing done in schools, but instead individual schools will be expected to report when their attendance drops below a threshold, which will trigger a response from public health officials that could include additional measures, and could involve a return to at-home learning for some students.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer,  said rapid tests will be prioritized for use on school staff showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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