Surrey PAC recommends enhanced COVID-19 safety measures in district schools

·2 min read
Students are pictured during a break at Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. As of Wednesday morning, there were just over 50 active COVID-19 exposures listed in the Surrey school district. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Students are pictured during a break at Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. As of Wednesday morning, there were just over 50 active COVID-19 exposures listed in the Surrey school district. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

With the Surrey school district's website reporting more than 50 active COVID-19 exposures, a spokesperson for the district's parent advisory council says it's time to take enhanced measures to keep students safe.

In the wake of surging case numbers across B.C., Rani Senghera, communications director for the Surrey district PAC, says the majority of district parents agree with public health officials that kids should be kept in classrooms.

But they also have suggestions that could reduce the risk of students coming home with COVID.

Speaking Wednesday on CBC's The Early Edition, Senghera made the following recommendations:

  • Move classrooms outside when weather permits

  • Eliminate the use of round tables in classrooms with several children around them

  • Improve building ventilation

  • Ensure all portable classrooms have hand-washing stations

Senghera said she would also like to see better monitoring of cohorts in common areas like the playground.

"Everyone is playing with everyone," said Senghera.

Current measures

The Surrey school district is located within the Fraser Health region, which has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the province.

The district did introduce enhanced safety measures for teachers, staff, students and parents in mid-March.

The new measures included increasing vigilance during outdoor playtime so students don't mingle across cohorts, as well as ensuring that all students and parents vacate school grounds immediately after school, and adding three early dismissals so health and safety committees can review and adjust protocols as needed.

The district also expanded its mask mandate in schools down to students in Grade 4 before the rest of the province followed suit after classes resumed following spring break.

"It's been a long haul," said Darren Danyluk, president of the B.C. Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association, also speaking Wednesday on The Early Edition.

He said moving classrooms outside, as suggested by Senghera, is a plausible option as the weather warms.

Toronto schools closing

On Tuesday, Toronto's public health agency announced it will force all schools to close on Wednesday and have students learn remotely instead.

As for the possibility of that happening in B.C., Danyluk said, "We'll take that guidance from public health."

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry made no indication on Tuesday that B.C. schools would close.

"We know that it is a safe place for [children] where emotional, physical, as well as educational growth happens and that families and communities are best supported when we have children safely in school, and so we'll still be focusing on that," said Henry.

LISTEN | Rani Senghera and Darren Danyluk on The Early Edition on April 7: