An online petition demanding all schools in the Comox Valley close has received more than 1,600 signatures.
The petition, started by an account on Change.org with the username Comox Valley Students, calls on School District 71 to halt in-class learning at schools in the valley due to a “staggering” increase in cases.
“The Comox Valley has seen a staggering increase in exposures and cases of COVID-19 throughout the community. This has drawn an increase of concern amongst the students within SD71,” the petition reads.
A handful of Comox Valley schools including Highland Secondary, Glacier View Secondary, Queneesh Elementary, and Aspen Park Elementary have all reported COVID-19 exposures in recent weeks.
“A lot of people would feel safer with the schools shutting down,” said Grade 10 student Skyla Ladouceur.
George P. Vanier Secondary in Courtenay has experienced multiple exposures, with the most recent ones occurring last week, resulting in more than 70 students and staff having to self-isolate.
“I would feel safer if the schools shut down,” said Amaryllis Nicholson, a Grade 11 student at Georgie P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay.
School district officials say those who tested positive did not contract COVID-19 at school.
“Our school sites and workplaces are safe and we have a robust health and safety protocol that is strictly enforced including wearing masks, hand washing, physical distancing, daily health checks, and encouraging individuals to stay at home if not feeling well,” the district said in a statement.
“We have been commended publicly in the media by Dr. Charmaine Enns Medical Health Officer for Island Health, that our protocols are excellent, and they are working at keeping individuals safe.”
But some students in the district feel differently.
“Yes I signed the petition and I think it’s a good idea because you can get infected and bring it home to your family and I think it’s just better since all the cases have been in the school to just stay home,” said fellow Vanier Secondary student, Alicia Sprout.
“We should be doing online school like we were at the end of last year just until cases calm down in the school district,” adds Oliver Ryan, a student at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School.
Other students at Vanier Secondary School, however, say staff are doing their best to enforce COVID-19 protocols.
“There are a bunch of Grade 8’s who run around the halls without masks on and just have no care for the covid regulations and the teachers and VP’s do try to crack down on these students but they just won’t listen,” said student Ashton Smith, who attends Vanier Secondary.
Dr. Enns and Dr. Sandra Allison, medical health officer for Island Health, will address COVID-19 in the Comox Valley and its impact on education in a virtual town hall meeting on March 4.