Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools chosen as one of six COVID-19 rapid response teams

·2 min read

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is one of five school districts the Ministry of Education has selected to lead COVID-19 regional rapid response teams to assist with safety plans and exposure assessments in schools and school districts.

One rapid response team has been assigned per health authority along with a sixth for public schools. NLPS’s team consists of Superintendent Scott Saywell; Will Dirksen, manager of safety and wellness; Dale Burgos, executive director of communications; and Drs. Sandra Allison and Dee Hoyano, medical health officers with Island Health.

“As the pandemic evolves, these teams will help us respond quickly and adapt, where necessary, to ensure best practices are being consistently applied throughout the education sector,” Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, said via press release.

The teams’ main duties will include reviewing significant school exposure events; making recommendations to implement and, if needed, enhance school safety plans; and supporting schools with communications to students, staff and families.

As for selecting which districts would lead the teams, the Ministry of Education said it considered factors such as “direct experience responding to school exposure events, close working relationships with the local health authority on COVID-19 responses and the ability to provide supports to other school districts within their region”

NLPS’s central location in the region was also a factor, the ministry said.

According to Island Health’s exposures in schools list, from September until March 5, NLPS has had more COVID-19 exposures in their schools than any other district within Island Health’s boundaries. Some of those exposures have led to clusters (two or more confirmed cases) and outbreaks (multiple confirmed cases).

Following the ministry and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s February announcement of changes to COVID-19 guidelines for schools, NLPS made numerous updates to its Stage 2 operational guidelines, including holding high-intensity physical activities outside whenever possible, keeping students two metres apart when using gym equipment and cleaning it between use, ensuring two metres distance when using musical instruments and keeping staff to one learning group, if possible.

The ministry has allocated $900,000 for the rapid response teams. Burgos said NLPS will receive up to $150,000, which will likely be used to add two positions, a team lead and an environmental health officer.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder