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Port Coquitlam school did ‘everything right' in COVID-19 cluster: teachers’ association

Four classes at Minnekhada middle school are still isolating because of coronavirus cases while another Port Coquitlam middle school, Kwayhquitlum, has been flagged for COVID-19 for Jan. 27, 28
Kwayhquitlum middle school is the latest in Port Coquitlam to be flagged for a COVID-19 exposure after four classes of students at nearby Minnekhada middle were sent home to self isolate because of a cluster detected in late January.

A Port Coquitlam middle school struggling with COVID-19 exposures — and a cluster of cases — during several days last month did “everything right,” says the president of the Coquitlam Teachers’ Association.

But even small transmission between students at Minnekhada middle school, which sent four classes home to self-isolate for 14 days was “inevitable” as the coronavirus continues to spread in the Tri-Cities.

“The school did everything right, I’m not concerned about the school or what happened with the school in terms of their protocols,” said CTA president Ken Christensen.

At the same time, Christensen said he wasn’t surprised that the cluster occurred at a School District 43 school.

“It was inevitable that it was going to occur at some point. What is pleasing to note is that we haven’t had situations like to the degree that we have seen in other districts and places like Surrey,” he said.

It’s been five months since students returned to school in the fall and Christensen said transmission was expected even as strict COVID-19 school protocols were rolled out, including mask wearing in the district. But he said he’s seen a lot of compliance at schools, and therefore relatively few exposures given the size of the district, B.C.’s third largest.

While Christensen welcomes new mask wearing protocols extending to classrooms at middle and secondary school, he said he’d still like to see a universal mask-wearing policy and fewer students in a class at a time.

Schools are routinely deep-cleaned after an exposure, Christensen said, and the teachers association is informed of what happened. But he said he’s not “at liberty to discuss” the Minnekhada situation.

Meanwhile, another Port Coquitlam middle school is being flagged for COVID-19 exposure.

According to Fraser Health, Kwayhquitlum middle school had someone who tested positive on school grounds on Jan. 27 and 28.

Centennial secondary, in Coquitlam, has also been flagged for COVID-19, this time for Jan. 29, with a letter sent to families, according to Fraser Health. This is the second time Centennial has been hit by an exposure in recent days, the most recent exposure was Jan. 18, 19.


The latest exposure comes as Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced tougher COVID-19 guidelines for schools.

All middle and secondary students, as well as K-12 staff, will be required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are with their learning groups. 

The only exceptions are when sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom, where there is a barrier in place, or while they are eating or drinking.

Previously, masks were only required for these groups in high-traffic areas, like hallways and outside of classrooms or learning groups when they could not safely distance from others.

High-intensity physical activities are to be held outside as much as possible — if required indoors, two metres of spacing is needed for activities. 

Shared equipment, including gym equipment, or musical instruments, must be sanitized between use and choir groups will have to wear masks when singing.


Here’s the list of school exposures current to Feb. 4, 2021.

Port Coquitlam:

• Minnekhada middle school Jan. 14, 15,18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26

• Pitt River middle school Jan. 25, 26

• Cedar Drive elementary school Jan. 25

• École des Pionniers-de-Maillardville (French language school) Jan. 18, 19, 25 and 26

• Kwayhquitlum middle school Jan. 27, 28


• Centennial secondary school Jan. 18, 19, 29

• Harbourview elementary school Jan. 25

• Gleneagle secondary school Jan. 21, 22 

• Porter elementary school Jan. 26

• Our Lady of Fatima (private school) Jan. 20, 21, 22


A school “exposure” indicates a single person with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection attended school during their infectious period. 

A school “cluster,” on the other hand, indicates possible school-based transmission with two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 attending school while infectious. 

Finally, an “outbreak” at a school means “multiple individuals with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection” and that “transmission is likely widespread.” 

So far there haven’t been any outbreaks in School District 43.

— with files from Stefan Labbé