As families head into Spring Break, the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district superintendent sent out a reminder about international travel amidst the continuing COVID-19 outbreak.
In the letter posted to the school district website on Wednesday, Sylvia Russell highlighted warnings by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, such as, monitoring the Government of Canada travel site for the latest travel advisories if anyone is planning an international trip and to keep in mind the availability of health care services in the areas they are planning to travel to.
“Health care services in some areas may be limited and travel restrictions may be put in place suddenly,” wrote Russell in the letter posted to the school district website on March 10.
She also stressed the importance of registering with the Government of Canada before travelling, a free service that enables travellers to receive important information before or during a natural disaster, civil unrest and also allows the government to notify a person in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home.
Seven new cases of COVID-19 was announced on March 11 by Dr. Henry and the Minister of Health Adrian Dix, bringing the total to 46 of those infected with the virus in the province.
“We have seen an increase in community cases in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley in recent days, where the source of the virus infection is not yet known,” said the pair in a joint statement.
On Wednesday three schools – two in Vancouver and one in Surrey – closed their doors to students because of possible COVID-19 concerns. On Monday a school on the North Shore was closed for the week.
In an abundance of caution, staff at Meadowridge School have established an isolation room in case a student complains of being ill while in class.
“We’ve established a room where they could be isolated from the other kids with a separate washroom and fully monitored so that we can establish the kind of care that we want,” said headmaster Hugh Burke.
“In most cases it will be fine and again it’s in the abundance of caution,” he said.
Burke said his school is doing more or less what the public system is doing. He said they had to cancel three school trips – one to France, one to Spain and one to Florida – because they could not predict what the travel arrangements might be or whether the children might have to go into quarantine.
They are reminding students to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, if necessary and to stop shaking hands.
Burke said they have had some families, in an abundance of caution, keep their kids home for a while, but that they had travelled much earlier. No one, he said, has displayed any symptoms.
They have had to cancel a gala and postpone a student organized charitable event in support of the SPCA, that would have had about 100 attendees.
Exams are not being postponed, said Burke, adding that exams are worldwide for the International Baccalaureate Continuum World School, and they will continue to operate with the IB.
“The public and independent schools will be behaving very similar because we are taking instruction from the public health officer and from the Ministry of Education. So everything we do should be coordinated and should lead to a sense of calm and a sense of care for the children, which is really important,” said Burke.
But, he said, if the spread of the virus keeps up for another month, they will be looking at trying to keep people a couple of feet apart, maybe even moving desks a bit farther apart.
“You have to plan for it, whether it happens or not, you have to plan for it.”