We have and will continue to raise these key issues which are being discussed at the provincial table:
Updated Health & Safety Guidelines
Based on the latest evidence and a review of school exposures to date in BC, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) have updated their public health guidance for K-12 schools to address several key areas. Updates include:
The Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Education Steering Committee and Health & Safety Working Group, has revised the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 in alignment with these updates. Changes are summarized at the front of the document and have been highlighted throughout the document.
All middle and secondary students and K-12 staff will now be required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are with their learning groups. The use of masks should not reduce or replace other more effective infection prevention and exposure control measures in schools.
The only exceptions are when:
Prior to these changes, masks were required for middle and secondary students and all K-12 staff in high-traffic areas, like hallways and outside of classrooms or learning cohorts when they could not safely distance themselves from others.
Guidelines have also been strengthened for physical education and music classes. High-intensity physical activities are to be held outside as much as possible. Shared equipment or items, such as weight machines, treadmills or musical instruments, can be used only if they are cleaned between use, according to strict school sanitization guidelines. Students using equipment or playing instruments should also be spaced at least two meters apart and masks are to be used when singing.
Six regional Rapid Response teams, one for each health authority and one dedicated to supporting independent schools, with representatives from both school and provincial health staff have been established. These teams, announced by the PHO, will continue to improve the speed of school exposure investigations, so health authorities can inform school districts and families more quickly. The rapid response teams will conduct physical or virtual site inspections to ensure K-12 COVID-19 health and safety guidelines are being followed consistently. If there has been a significant exposure event or an in-school transmission, rapid response teams will be deployed to conduct a review and make recommendations, if needed.
As a result of all these changes, school districts are required to do the following by Friday, February 26:
Regarding school exposures, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in a school, public health contacts affected school community members directly. Regional health authorities also post-school notifications on their websites, providing the date and type of notification (outbreak, cluster or exposure) for impacted schools.
New K-12 Health Check App
The Ministry of Education has worked with Public Health and the BCCDC to create a daily health check website and mobile app for students and their parents to complete before heading to school in the morning. The website and app will contain the most up-to-date BC health guideline information. The design of the app was developed in collaboration with BC students to create an age-appropriate user-experience. It will allow for students and their parents to make the best decisions on whether to attend school, not to attend school, or take other measures based on the information they provide.