The FAQ’s on schools, COVID protocols and more
Below are a series of questions we’ve heard from you: whether that was in an email, over the phone, in one of the three Townhall opportunities, or maybe even at the grocery store. Because we know these questions come from all places and you’re thinking about them a lot.
This will be a continually updated document of sorts. And we know there’s a lot to add still. So we thank you for your patience as we add more sections and questions.
Topics covered so far:
- Learning groups
- Daily Health Checks
- COVID-19 positive case protocols
We’ll add more to this soon and through the year. To submit more questions, send them to: email@example.com
What are learning groups?
Learning groups are one layer of the health and safety measures put in place to make our schools safer. By organizing students and staff into these set cohorts, we reduce unnecessary exposure by limiting the number of possible interactions.
What size are the learning groups?
Our elementary schools in New Westminster are organized into learning groups of up to 30 people, at middle school we have groups of up 60 people, and at secondary school – where students are better able to reduce contact themselves – we’re averaging around 90-100 people per cohort (below the 120 people limit set by the provincial health and safety authorities).
When is distancing required or not required?
Physical distancing (1-2 meters within school settings) is encouraged at all times, even within learning groups. And it is required when outside of learning groups. We are restricting the number of adults who work across learning groups, with masking and distancing requirements in place for anyone who does move across cohorts. School bell and break schedules have been adjusted, and doorways assigned by cohort to reduce the number of people entering, exiting or moving through set spaces at the same time.
When it comes to distancing within a learning group, it will continue to be encouraged whenever possible. Layered into this strategy will be new protocols around limiting contact by reducing use of shared tools, increased hand washing, and more.
HEALTH CHECKS AND WELLNESS
What are the Daily Health Checks?
Mandatory Daily Health Checks must be completed by parents for every child going to school, each and every day, or for any adult entering a school building. Your child’s school has sent a list of symptoms to check for – updates will be provided as required. Please follow the instructions on the Daily Health Check, and call 811 if you have health related questions.
What if someone else in our home is sick?
The Daily Health Check needs to be completed for each student or adult intending to enter a school that day.
If your child exhibits one or more of the key symptoms, has travelled internationally, or has been contacted by public health officers and informed they are a confirmed contact of a person with COVID-19, follow the advice listed on the Daily Health Check (or the advice received from a public health officer) for next steps.
If none of the above applies – and you have not been otherwise instructed by a public health officer or other medical professional – then even if another person in the house is not feeling well, the person exhibiting no symptoms or signs that they’re ill may attend school, if you decide it is appropriate.
What if my child has allergies or this symptom is not new to them?
If the symptom is consistent with a previously diagnosed health condition (e.g. allergies or asthma), and it is not unusual for your child to have that symptom, they may return to school. No assessment or note will be required from a health provider.
COVID-19 POSITIVE CASE PROTOCOLS
What is the process followed when a member of the school community tests positive for COVID-19?
The Fraser Health Authority is the lead in our region. The District and its schools will work collaboratively to provide Fraser Health with all the information and support they need to conduct their contact tracing and communication. A step-by-step guide of what to expect, from the early notification letter that just lets you know there’s an assessment happening to possible later communications, can be found here: https://newwestschools.ca/what-to-expect-when-theres-a-positive-covid-19-case/
Can you tell us who it was or what learning group they are part of?
For privacy reasons, we cannot give out any further details. Fraser health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.
Should I send my child to school if there’s been a COVID-19 exposure?
If your child is not sick and you do not receive a phone call or letter from Public Health directing you to keep your child home, your child should continue to attend school. You can monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms daily using the BC COVID-19 Health Assessment Tool.
If for any reason you decide to keep your child home, please remember to let the school know.
What is the contact tracing process and how long does it take?
If a student or staff member receives a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, Fraser Health Public Health follows a rigorous protocol. Contact tracing is initiated to determine how the individual was infected and who they were in close contact with. Fraser Health will identify and directly notify close contacts who may be at an increased risk, and advise them to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
Typically, the process takes two to four days from the time Fraser Health is notified of a positive case. The exact time to complete contact tracing can vary depending on the number of case contacts, types of interactions, speed of replies.
Are schools being shut down for cleaning and disinfection?
Strict cleaning protocols remain in place, including daily deep cleans of every building and a minimum twice daily cleaning and disinfection for high touch surfaces.
As soon as the District is notified of a possible exposure, the custodial team is engaged to verify the school has been fully cleaned and disinfected since the last date the person with the positive case was on site and to determine whether additional cleaning and disinfection needs to be done.
What happens if there’s a rumour about a COVID-19 case at the school?
We understand there may be rumours, and it is easy to speculate when it is noticed that someone is away (which can happen for many reasons). It’s important that we work together and act only on the facts we have. Early notifications letters can reassure parents and staff that public health is following up on confirmed COVID-19 cases in our school community.
Please know that we’re doing everything we can to be open and communicate with our families and staff. It’s why there are Early Notification Letters and recorded calls. When a positive case is confirmed, Fraser Health will quickly and diligently complete their contact tracing, and they will connect directly with families or individuals if they determine someone may be at risk of exposure. Any confirmed case are also publicly listed here: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/schoolexposures#.X3SonNpKiUk
Have more questions you’d like to see answered? Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll continue to update this throughout the year.