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Parents and Students

Learn about safety measures in schools, attending school safely and what happens when there is a case of COVID-19 in schools.
Students can attend school safely during the COVID-19 pandemic when we work together to follow public health guidelines. 

  1. Schools follow safety plans to prevent COVID-19 in schools.

  2. Parents and students understand and follow the guidelines for attending school.
     
  3. Public health conducts contact tracing for every case of COVID-19 and assesses if additional measures are needed.

Together, these measures help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We all have a role to play in making our schools safer. 

Preventing COVID-19 in Schools
Attending school in person is important for a student’s education and well-being. Every school in B.C. has an approved COVID-19 health and safety plan. This plan details what a school must do to operate safely. Since no public health measure is perfect, the plan has multiple layers of protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

School Health and Safety Measures




What schools are doing

Schedules and spaces have been reorganized to prevent crowding. Students and staff are given as much space in a school as possible to keep apart from others. Measures to prevent crowding:

  • Virtual school gatherings
  • Moving classroom seating arrangements to make space
  • Opening windows for air flow
  • Changing schedules to keep learning groups separate. 


Students and staff are organized in learning groups to reduce the number of people they see each day. 

  • In middle and secondary schools, these are groups of up to 120 staff and students.
  • In elementary schools, these are groups of up to 60 staff and students.

A learning group or cohort is a group of students and staff who stay together during a school quarter, semester or year. The group mostly interacts with each other. 


If someone has COVID-19 in a school, learning groups help limit the number of close contacts. Learning groups work best when used with other layers of protection.


Examples of learning groups:

  • One class of students with their teacher
  • More than one class of students that join each other in activities like music
  • A group of secondary school students who have the same courses in the same quarter or semester.

Learning group sizes were determined by medical health officers across the province. When deciding on the learning group size they thought about:

  • The age and maturity of children in different school types
  • The type of instruction across the different school types
  • The importance of a close-to-normal learning experience to support students
  • Class size limits
  • Contact tracing and testing capacity of public health. The group sizes help public health to identify cases in the school community.


Cleaning is done every day throughout the entire school. Things that are touched often are cleaned at least twice a day. There are also more places to clean your hands






Frequently Asked Questions

Attending school in person is important for a student’s education and well-being. Schools deliver many important services for many children. 

Since Spring 2020, we’ve learned a lot about how COVID-19 spreads. From our experience in B.C. and around the world, we know that having schools open does not make COVID-19 spread farther or faster in our communities. The number of cases in schools reflect what is happening in our communities. 

With health and safety plans in place with multiple layers of protection, schools are safe places to be. We all need to follow public health recommendations to keep the number of cases in our communities low. This is the most important thing for keeping our schools safe. ‎

Schools are low-risk settings for getting COVID-19. This is because:
  • There are effective health and safety plans in place. These include multiple layers of protection that work together to reduce risk, and
  • Most people in the school are children, who are less likely than adults to have or spread COVID-19.
Most often, it is an adult who brings COVID-19 into a household. 

Your family’s risk for getting COVID-19 depends on many things, like where you live and the types of activities you do. The best way to protect your family from COVID-19 is to follow public health recommendations and Provincial Health Officer Orders.  







Attending School Safely
Students and families can also help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Daily Health Checks

Daily Health Checks mean checking yourself or your child every day for COVID-19 symptoms. Students and parents or caregivers can use the: 

Stay home when sick or self-isolating

Physical distancing

Physical distancing means reducing close contact with others. 
  • Within learning groups, avoid physical contact and spread out as much as possible.
  • Outside of learning groups, keep 2 metres of space between people whenever possible. 

Clean hands

Clean your hands often. This means washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. 


Masks

Masks provide some protection to you, and to those around you. 

Middle or secondary school students should wear a mask:

  • Indoors at school except when
    • sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom or learning space; or
    • there is a barrier in place; or
    • eating or drinking.
  •  On the bus.

For elementary school students, wearing a mask should be based on your or your family/caregiver’s personal choice.

Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They act as a barrier and help stop the spread of droplets from a person’s mouth and nose when talking, laughing, yelling, singing, coughing, or sneezing. Wearing a mask should be combined with other important protective measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing. A mask is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its own.

Things to know

  • Even if you are wearing a mask it is important to practice physical distancing.
  • You can take off your mask to eat or drink.
  • You are not required to wear a mask if you cannot tolerate it.
  • Learn more about masks on the BCCDC website.
  • Students should be taught how to properly wear a mask. 
  • Learn how to properly wear a mask

 Content Editor ‭[4]‬



Why has mask guidance changed?

Mask recommendations have been updated to reflect what we have learned in B.C., as well as evidence from Canada and internationally. We now know that masks provide some protection to both the wearer and those around them, and they can be safely worn by children. The use of masks in schools now better reflects their use in other community and workplace settings across the province.



Frequently Asked Questions


You can help keep your child – and everyone else - safe at school by:
  • Doing a daily health check for your child before school.
  • Keeping your child home if they are sick.
  • Helping your child know how to:
    • Manage their space from others
    • Clean their hands well
    • Wear a mask correctly
    • Follow the health and safety rules of their school. 
  • Following public health recommendations, like avoiding non-essential travel and avoiding socializing with people who live outside of your household. 
Children should stay home from school when:
  • they are sick. 
  • they are waiting for a COVID-19 test result.
  • they are required to self-isolate
    • Children are required to self-isolate if they have travelled outside of Canada OR they were identified by public health as a close contact of someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19. 
Masks provide protection to the person wearing them and to those around them. Children over age two can safely wear masks. 

If your child is in middle or secondary school, they should wear a mask on buses and indoors at school except when:
  • sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom or learning space; or
  • there is a barrier in place; or
  • eating or drinking. 
If your child is in elementary school, they don’t have to wear a mask at school or on the bus. Talk to your child about if you’d like them to wear a mask, and where you’d like them to wear one. 

Your child is welcome to wear a mask at school more often. Talk to your child about when you’d like them to wear a mask.  

Learn more about masks





COVID-19 Cases in Schools
When COVID-19 is in a community, there is a risk that COVID-19 will be in the schools within the community. Sometimes people have COVID-19 and don’t know it. Nobody means to bring COVID-19 into a school.  

Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19 at school. This process is called contact tracing. Contact tracing helps to identify other people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Public health may ask these people to take specific actions to prevent the  spread of COVID-19. 

Contact Tracing in Schools


Open Contact Tracing in Schools (PDF)

What happens when someone who attends or works at school tests positive for COVID-19

If a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19:

  1. Public health officials ask when their symptoms started and where they’ve been. This helps public health know if they were able to spread COVID-19 at school.

    • If they were able to spread COVID-19 at school,  this is called an exposure. Public health notifies the school district and begins contact tracing.  

    • If they were not able to spread COVID-19 at school, public health still makes sure anyone who may be a close contact outside of school is notified.

  2. Contact tracing helps determine close contacts of the person who tested positive. These are usually staff or students who spent a lot of time around the person who tested positive. 

    • Public health tells staff or students they are close contacts through a phone call or letter. They will need to self-isolate. The name of the person who tested positive is not shared.

  3. Staff and students who are not close contacts don’t have an increased chance of catching COVID-19. They are not contacted by public health. 

    • After contacting tracing, they are told about exposures through exposure notifications. These are letters sent from the school or posted on the regional health authority’s website. 

Some health authorities send additional notifications

Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19 at school.  Some school districts tell the school community when contact tracing is starting. These are early exposure letters. 

Public health may sometimes send letters to additional contacts at lower risk of exposure asking them to monitor for symptoms.

Clusters and outbreaks are different

Health and safety plans help prevent COVID-19 from spreading at school. Most people who have COVID-19 don’t spread it to another person at school. But, sometimes COVID-19 does spread.

A cluster is when there are several cases in a school within a two-week period. Public health thinks people may have been infected at school. 

 

An outbreak is the same as a cluster, except that significant actions are needed to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the school. Public health may close the school for a period of time or take other extraordinary measures.

COVID-19 Safety and B.C. Schools

What we know so far (as of February 2021):

  1. Fewer school-aged children (5 to 18 years olds) have tested positive for COVID-19 compared to adults. Younger children make up a small proportion of cases than older children.

  2. Serious COVID-19 outcomes are less common in school-aged children.

  3. COIVD-19 virus has a relatively low case rate among school-aged children.


Open the infographic on COVID-19 and children and schools

COVID-19 is still a new virus, new evidence and research is constantly being reported. In BC, we rely on a number of sources of high quality evidence to support public health decisions. For schools this includes:

  1. The knowledge and expertise of school medical health officers
  2. BC public health data and reports
  3. National and international research (For example: NCCMT Evidence Review, ECDC Technical Report)

Children and COVID-19

 Content Editor ‭[5]‬


Frequently Asked Questions


Public health identifies close contacts and asks them to self-isolate. If you do not receive a letter or phone call from public health asking for your child to self-isolate, they do not need to. They can continue to attend school. 
Your child should continue attending school. There are many reasons for a person to be absent from school. Most illnesses in B.C. are not COVID-19. 

Public health will contact you directly by phone call or letter if your child was a close contact of somebody with COVID-19 and needs to self-isolate.

If your child has no symptoms of illness, they should continue attending school. 

If your child has symptoms of illness, use the When to Get Tested resource or the BC Self-Assessment Tool to know what to do next. 

Parents and families sometimes hear about a member of their school community testing positive for COVID-19 before they are notified by public health. This is often because the person who tested positive has told people before public health has completed contact tracing.

Public health will always contact you directly by phone call or letter if your child is identified as  a close contact of the person who tested positive.

‎Attending school in person is important for a student’s education and well-being. Schools deliver many important services for many children.  


Since Spring 2020, we’ve learned a lot about how COVID-19 spreads. From our experience in B.C. and around the world, we know that having schools open does not make COVID-19 spread farther or faster in our communities. The number of cases in schools reflect what is happening in our communities. 

With health and safety plans in place with multiple layers of protection, schools are safe places to be. We all need to follow public health recommendations to keep the number of cases in our communities low. This is the most important thing for keeping our schools safe. 






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