Surrey Schools to introduce targeted health and safety measures in schools

THE Surrey School District has experienced more school-based exposures than any other district in the province. These exposures are a direct reflection of COVID-19 cases in the community, with the Surrey and White Rock areas experiencing more cases of COVID-19 than any other community in British Columbia.

“Our schools have had a number of exposures that are community acquired, and that have not resulted in school-based transmission,” said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education, on Friday.

“This is a testament to the fact that our staff and students are protecting each other and following protocols consistent with public health guidelines and recommendations. But our Board also recognizes that our community is dealing with a high burden of COVID-19 cases, and so we feel it’s prudent to introduce new targeted health and safety measures to further protect our staff and students.”

The additional measures that were developed in partnership with Fraser Health, will be implemented in all schools in the Surrey School District effective March 29. These measures include:

* Having three early dismissals for the specific purpose of allowing school-based health and safety committees to review and adjust site-specific health and safety plans and protocols as needed, and within provincial guidelines.

* Explore options for adjusting elementary start times to allow teachers to have a common preparation time which would eliminate the need for cross cohort instruction.

* For those who team-teach as subject specialists in upper elementary grades, focus on instruction in their own class, eliminating the need to teach more than one class.

* Work with school-based administrators to increase vigilance during outdoor play time so students do not cross cohorts.

* Work with school administrators and families to ensure all students and parents vacate school grounds immediately after school.

* Consider moving StrongStart Programs to online learning.

* Continuing to require masks in secondary schools unless staff or students are:

– sitting or standing at their workstation/learning space; or

– separated by a barrier; or

– actively eating or drinking.

Surrey Schools said these steps are just a summary of a more comprehensive plan to respond to the increased cases in the Surrey and White Rock areas, while adhering to the established provincial health and safety guidelines. This plan will also integrate with the rapid response teams working with high exposures incidents.

“The safety and well-being of our students, families and staff remains our district’s highest priority,” said Dr. Jordan Tinney, Superintendent for Surrey Schools.

“We recognize the importance of face-to-face learning and are committed to ensuring our students can continue to learn as safely as possible by following all appropriate measures to limit the spread of illness. We will continue to engage with our local and provincial partners at Fraser Health, BCCDC and the provincial government to carefully examine data related to exposures in our schools and community, and further refine and reassess plans and additional measures as needed to keep our staff and students safe and in school.”