Tuesday September 28, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
The impacts of the ongoing COVID pandemic as dealt with in Sooke School District SD62 (SD62) were addressed from various vantage points this evening at the SD62 September 28 public board meeting.
The overall goal is of course to maintain as much safety as possible within the school during the fourth wave of the pandemic. SD62 Superintendent has repeatedly made it clear from day-one of the pandemic that SD62 will follow all Public Health Officer orders.
Masks a point of concern:
Following the statement today by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry (in her media briefing at 12:30 pm) that masks for Kindergarten to Grade 3 are “encouraged” but not mandatory, there has been response from all education sectors (including the BC Teachers Federation and parent groups in social media).
At tonight’s SD62 board meeting, SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson said the wearing of masks for children in Kindergarten to Grade 3 is not mandatory but that SD62 “strongly encourages the wearing of masks” in all grades as “transmissions seem to be increasing in our schools”.
In just the past seven reporting days (September 20 to 24, and September 27 to 28), the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) has reported 94 test-positive COVID cases in children age newborn to 9 years, but not as many cases (68) in teens age 12 to 19 years. Virtually every case of COVID in BC is caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant, as determined by the BC CDC. Dr Henry said today that 5% to 10% of children age 5 to 11 years in BC are testing positive for COVID.
Not a normal year:
Only a month ago SD62 was taking the posture toward the COVID pandemic that this 2021-2022 school year would be more ‘normal’ than last year, but tonight SD62 Board Chair Ravi Parmar said “this is not a normal year, it continues to be unique & challenging”.
And if government concern about enforcing mask-wearing on kids age 5 to 11 years has to do with emotional impact on youngest kids about wearing masks, who better to know than teachers? Tonight the Sooke Teachers Association (STA) representative said the members of STA “don’t understand why masks haven’t been mandated for K-3 as kids, unvaccinated, are getting COVID”.
As well, parents as represented by SPEAC (district parent advisory committee in SD62), said they would like to see mandatory mask-wearing in K-3, as well as limits on gatherings, and that caregivers coming into the schools be vaccinated.
Cleaning & ventilation:
Stinson said that surface cleaning in schools has been cut back to once every 24 hours (evenings only) instead of twice a day as was the case during the first three waves of the pandemic in the 2020-2021 school year. In the fourth wave, the COVID virus is better understood as being airborne, with the focus more on ventilation in schools. A detailed ventilation report will be available soon from SD62, through the work of their Resources Committee.
Vaccination for kids age 5 to 11:
COVID vaccination is not approved yet in Canada for children under age 12, though Dr Henry expects the availability and approval of COVID vaccines for children age 5 to 11 years to be available this fall sometime.
Dr Henry’s data presentation earlier today showed there were 658 new test-positive COVID cases in kids age 5 to 11 last week (Sept 17 to 23), which is 2.5 times the 261 test-positive cases in ages 12-17 (an age group where masks are worn in schools and vaccinations are available).
Last week one child in the 5 to 11 age group was hospitalized due to COVID infection. There have been no deaths caused by COVID infection among children age 5 or older during the pandemic to date.
===== About the writer:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been covering the news of SD62 at the board and committee level since 2014, and the COVID news in BC since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Her now-grown children attended schools in SD61, SD62 and SD72. She holds a B.Sc. in health science.
===== RELATED ARTICLES:
COVID in BC: booster shot coming for long-term care residents | vaccination intervals (September 28, 2021)
Recommended COVID vaccine interval is longer than 28 days (September 18, 2021)
Vancouver Island: COVID infections in over 1,600 kids & teens (September 16, 2021)
Mitzi Dean: investments in school playgrounds & ventilation (September 15, 2021)
SD62: pandemic ‘lingers’ as student count grows (September 7, 2021)
BCTF Fall 2021: wants better protections & return-to-school caution (September 6, 2021)
COVID info-pages for K-12 & post-secondary (September 4, 2021 & continually updated)