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Burnaby high schools flagged for multiples COVID-19 exposures

Many teachers are pushing for changes, including lowering class sizes
Six Burnaby high schools have seen recent COVID-19 exposures. Getty Images

COVID-19 exposures continue to pile up at Burnaby high schools in recent days.

The Fraser Health school exposures website has been updated and six different Burnaby high schools have been listed on it during the past week.

The high school cases include:

  • Alpha Secondary, Dec. 7-8
  • Burnaby Central Secondary, Dec. 14
  • Burnaby Mountain Secondary, Dec. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
  • Burnaby North Secondary, Dec. 7-8
  • Byrne Creek Community, Dec. 7, 8 and 9
  • Cariboo Secondary, Dec. 3

BNS has seen the most exposure notices sent home since the start of the school year.

The five dates for Burnaby Mountain Secondary follow one of its students writing to the NOW about not seeing many others at the school following protocols.

“I currently attend Burnaby Mountain Secondary School and have noticed some unsettling things,” the student wrote. “I see that not everyone at school practices social distancing and sometimes do not care about masks or the COVID-19 virus.”

It should be noted that these are just the high schools listed by Fraser Health at this moment. There are some elementary schools listed on the site. There are probably others as there is a lag time between when parents receive notices and when Fraser Health posts the exposures.

These recent exposures follows renewed push by some teachers to raise the alarm about what is happening in B.C. schools.

The BC Teachers’ Federation has been asking for the education ministry to make changes, including reducing the size of classes.

The Surrey Teachers Association has also written an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that calls for stronger coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocol in schools. 

Matt Wesphal, a member of the association, took to Twitter on Dec. 15 to share the letter to B.C.'s top doctor. He captioned his post: "We are not safe."

The letter notes that over 6,000 teachers are employed in the Surrey School District, which is also the largest in B.C. With over 75,000 students in K-12 in 130 schools, some are so "severely crowded that there are as many as 20 portables on the fields or parking lots."

While there are Plexiglass barriers in offices, there are none in classes, explains the STA. Worsening weather has also led to less physical education outside, which means less opportunity for safe face-to-face interaction.

"We can't control whether kids are sent to school sick, especially if COVID-19 victims are infectious before they are symptomatic."

The letter adds that masks should be mandated for everyone in schools--not only teachers and adults. Further, classrooms should be reduced in size by 50 per cent to ensure safe physical distance.

"Every day, we continue to put ourselves, our loved ones, and communities at risk," reads the letter. "It is dangerous and unfair to be expected to continue in this way without appropriate measures to ensure our safety."

COVID-19 school notification process

If a student or teacher receives a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, Public Health follows rigorous protocol:

  • Contact tracing is initiated to determine how the individual was infected and who they were in close contact with.
  • We identify and notify close contacts who may be at an increased risk, and advise them to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
  • Only Public Health can determine who is a close contact. Learning groups, friends or other connections may not be determined to be a close contact.
  • Public Health staff works closely with the school and school district throughout the case and contact management process to maintain close communication with the school community.
  • With files from the Canadian Press and Elana Shepert, Vancouver is Awesome