A message sent to parents from SD42 was meant to clarify questions from families and staff about Fraser Health’s new COVID-19 contact tracing guidelines for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 settings. (THE NEWS/files)

A message sent to parents from SD42 was meant to clarify questions from families and staff about Fraser Health’s new COVID-19 contact tracing guidelines for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 settings. (THE NEWS/files)

Positive COVID-19 tests no longer need to be reported to Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows schools

Message from SD42 clarifies Fraser Health’s new guidelines surrounding COVID-19 contact tracing

Letters were sent out to parents this week by SD42 advising them that if their child tests positive for COVID-19 there is no need to notify the school or others at the school.

Instead, the letter informed parents, they must self-report the positive result through Fraser Health and notify their close contacts.

The message was to clarify questions from families and staff about Fraser Health’s announcement about new COVID-19 contact tracing guidelines for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 settings, explained district spokesperson Irena Pochop.

“This message outlined, in part, the shift by public health to a self-management process, where school exposures are no longer issued for individual cases,” she remarked.

Since, under Fraser Health’s new system, there will no longer be exposure, self-monitor, or self-isolation notifications from public health, so the district wanted families to be aware that they must complete an online form instead to report their test result and to identify and inform their close contacts themselves.

“Close contacts are defined generally as the people with whom a person lives and those with whom a person has had intimate contact,” Pochop said.

“Parents/guardians therefore no longer (need to) notify the school if their child tested positive but report the positive test and identify close contacts directly through the BC CDC website instead.”

Last week, as students headed back to school after an extended winter break, the SD42 superintendent of schools Harry Dhillon warned parents and guardians that the school district expects staffing challenges over the next few weeks and to prepare for the possibility of “functional school closures”.

Dhillon said a functional closure will be determined by the district when there is a lack of staff to provide the required level of teaching, supervision, support and/or custodial services to ensure the health and safety of students.

Although, every effort would be made to “deploy all available resources to cover staff absences”, he added.

When the district was asked by The News how many school staff exactly would have to be absent to create a functional school closure event they replied that the closure of a school would be based on several factors, including: the number of absences, the position type, and the school site.

The decision will be made by a District Continuity of Learning Team, made up of the superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendents, the director of human resources, along with other experts, who will be meeting daily to review attendance and determine whether staffing interventions are required to ensure continued school operations.

SD42, however, will be following the Ministry of Education’s definition:

“A functional closure of a school is the temporary closure of a school determined by a school district or independent school due to a lack of staff to provide the required level of teaching, supervision, support, and/or custodial to ensure the health and safety of students. This would likely be due to a high number of staff or certain employees away who are required for a school to function, and the inability to temporarily replace them.”

If a functional closure is deemed necessary, added Pochop, the information will be provided through the Parent Portal to families and school communities impacted by the closure.

“The information will also be shared on the school website,” she said.

Trevor Takasaki, head of the Maple Ridge Teacher’s Union, believes functional school closures is only a matter of time.

“The inevitable functional closure is likely, said Takasaki, adding that local teachers have mixed feelings about working in in-person classroom settings with the Omicron variant circulating.

“There’s a lot of people who are anxious of how this will impact the next few weeks. They are anxious how staff shortages could impact their work experience,” he said.

“But we’re all doing the best we can to navigate a complex and changing situation,” added Takasaki.

READ MORE: SD42 leadership reviewing school COVID safety measures as Omicron spreads

ALSO: Rapid spread of Omicron showing ‘tale of two pandemics: rich and poor’

Takasaki said teachers have been clear when they called for a prioritization for booster shots, noting that it would have have been a meaningful way the government could have improved the situation for teachers in their classrooms. However, he said, right now teachers, want to know as much as possible, as early as possible so they can prepare and get themselves ready for whatever modifications they need to make.

“All teachers understand that this is a unique situation in this whole COVID timeline right now,” he said.

Overall Takasaki is happy with how the school district has been working with the union and other partner agencies to make schools as safe as possible.

He said this situation is not the case for other school districts. Takasaki said one example is the ventilation system improvements that have been done across the district and how proper MERV-13 filtration systems have been put in, which, according to the SD42 website, captures 80-90 per cent of contaminated particles floating in the air. Some districts, Takasaki noted, still have inferior filtration systems, and that is because those districts are “dragging their heels” on the problem.

“The one hope that I have is that our district, the teachers, the union, all the partner groups, continue to just keep working together – like we’ve tried to do this whole pandemic,” said Takasaki.


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