By Rhonda Kershaw,
Kamloops-Thompson Board of Education Chair
The recent updates to the guidelines by the Ministry of Education provide enhancements to our existing processes and build on lessons learned throughout the province to date. We welcome these enhancements to what is already a strong position of safety and look forward to implementing them within our schools.
We face our fair share of challenges as our education system provides vital services to children during this pandemic. While we can never live in a risk-free world, our staff and students have risen to the challenge to provide a safe environment for learners to thrive in.
While there have been school exposures throughout the province, there are still very low rates of transmission within our schools. When we re-opened schools this past September the Board of Education was committed to ensuring safety for students and staff. We are proud that our administration has ensured a clear, open and transparent process where parents are provided with all relevant information.
To this point, the board also believes the health and safety guidelines are working, and our schools remain safe places of learning. As with any risk, we can never reduce exposure risk to zero in a global pandemic. We are succeeding in limiting COVID-19 transmission within our schools, and we believe this is the best place for student learning to occur.
Every school safety plan is a living document that needs to adapt and change as circumstances evolve. Over the past months, in consultation with partner groups and health-care professionals the Ministry of Education has revised and now updated regulations.
Among the changes to the announced health and safety guidelines are clarifications on some specific interactions within schools as well as more clear definitions for some of the key terms we will now see used as everyday language.
One advantage we have within a school community is that they are controlled environments. We have the ability to limit who enters our buildings, which in turn facilitates contact tracing when a potential exposure is identified.
Multiple lines of defense also exist within our buildings to limit transmission of COVID-19, including increased hand washing, limited student movement, increased spacing and masks, to ensure staff and students can continue learning in safe environments. We rely on the advice of public health officials and adapt our safety plans wherever required as the understanding of this virus evolves.
We encourage parents to visit the Provincial Health Services micro-site at bccdc.ca/schools and to check out the parent app which can be found at k12dailycheck.gov.bc.ca. These sites will provide parents and interested parties with COVID-19 information specific to education and tools for self-assessment. Parents and caregivers can also download a smartphone application that guides them through the daily health check process. This information is designed to help daily decision making prior to attending school each morning.
As a parent, I understand the anxiety and concern we share regarding the safety of students. As a board and an organization, we will continue to be transparent and timely while recognizing that our approach and plans may have to adapt to new circumstances.
To this point we have been successful at keeping safety at the forefront, while still providing students with a quality in-person education. This is in no small part attributable to herculean efforts on the parts of staff at all levels, students and their families. We would like to thank everyone for continuing these efforts and look forward to a successful remainder of the year.