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School Staff

Learn about the prevention measures in place to keep schools low-risk.
Last updated: January 19, 2022

Effective prevention measures are still in place to keep schools low-risk for COVID-19. Staff can attend school safely when we work together to follow public health guidelines.  
 
  • Everyone eligible gets two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Schools implement and update communicable disease plans.
  • Students, staff and parents/caregivers follow school communicable disease plans. 
  • Regions add measures when there is greater risk in a community.
Together, these measures help prevent the spread of communicable diseases like COVID-19 in schools. We all have a role to play in making our schools safer. 

The public health guidance for schools has been updated for the 2021/22 school year. 

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 a communicable disease plan that details what they must do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Plans include multiple layers of protection.

What schools are doing

  • Spreading people out within the available space
  • Ensuring ventilation systems are working effectively
  • Providing frequent opportunities for hand cleaning
  • Requiring most students and staff to wear masks indoors.

Additional prevention measures added in January 2022 provide further layers of protection in response to the omicron variant. These include:

  • Holding school gatherings and events virtually
  • Limiting visitors
  • Pausing sports tournaments
  • Avoiding in-person spectators at gatherings and events, including extracurricular activities

Plans also support staff, students and their families to practice personal prevention measures that help keep schools low-risk like daily health checks, staying home when sick, and respecting each other's personal space. 

In communities where there is an increased risk, a local Medical Health Officer may recommend additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

Public health measures such as vaccination and Provincial Health Officer orders also help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.


Frequently Asked Questions

Schools will continue to implement many of the same safety measures as last year to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus. These include:
  • Spreading out in the available space,
  • Ensuring ventilation systems are working properly,
  • Wearing masks, 
  • Providing frequent opportunities for hand hygiene, and
  • Going outside more often. 
Several time-limited measures are also being added in January to add further layers of protection until we better understand the impact of the omicron variant. These include:
  • Holding school gatherings and events virtually,
  • Limiting visitors,
  • Pausing sports tournaments, and
  • Avoiding in-person spectators at gatherings and events, including extracurricular activities
These prevention measures are intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 speaking in schools, while allowing students and staff to engage in activities and interactions that are important for learning and development.

 
The public health guidance outlines the prevention measures that should always be in place across all B.C. public and independent schools this school year. However, there might be times when additional measures are needed in certain communities because there is increased local risk.

Regional medical health officers will issue recommendations for individual schools, a grouping of schools, a school district or for all schools within a health authority during times of elevated risk. This will most likely be during times of increased community spread of COVID-19 and within communities with low vaccination uptake.

 
Omicron is the most commonly detected variant of concern in B.C. It spreads more easily than other variants and we don’t yet know whether it causes less severe disease. So far it doesn’t appear to result in more severe illness in children. COVID-19 is a more mild illness for most children compared to adults. 

Two doses of COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective at preventing infection with the omicron variant, but it continues to provide good protection against severe disease if you do get sick. A booster dose appears to increase protection against infection with the omicron variant among those people who are eligible.

Vaccine coverage differs in different parts of the province. We continue to see higher risk in some communities, especially those with lower vaccination uptake. In these communities, local Medical Health Officers may recommend additional prevention measures for the whole community, as well as for schools.

The best way to prevent the omicron variant from impacting schools is for everyone eligible to get recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Extracurricular activities and inter-school events, including sports, arts, and other special interests, can happen in line with what’s allowed within local and provincial recommendations and Orders.


However, some extracurricular activities and inter-school events will look different compared to fall 2021. On the return to school in January 2022, extracurricular sports tournaments will be paused and in-person spectators will not be permitted.


 

School-Based Staff Safety
School staff play an important role in keeping schools low risk by following the safety measures below.

Get vaccinated

Children and people age 5 and older living in B.C. are eligible to get immunized against COVID-19.

Daily health checks

Daily health checks mean checking yourself every day for COVID-19 symptoms before you go to school. Staff can use the BC Self-Assessment Tool app.

Stay home when sick

  • If you are sick or have symptoms of illness, you should stay home even if you are fully vaccinated.
  • Use the BC Self-Assessment Tool, or follow BCCDC testing guidance to know what to do if you are sick.
  • If you get tested and have COVID-19, visit the BCCDC website for information on how to self-isolate, manage symptoms and let others know: What to do if you have COVID-19.
  • If you do not need a test, stay home until you feel well enough to return to regular activities.   
  • You can also call 8-1-1 or visit HealthLink BC for advice.  

Respect personal space

Personal space is the distance from which a person feels comfortable being next to another person. Students and staff should respect each others’ personal space at school. 

Clean Hands

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

Wear masks when recommended

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

All staff, adult visitors and volunteers, and students in K-12 should wear a mask at all times indoors while at school, except when:

  • they are unable to because of health or behavioural reasons
  • the mask is removed to identify the person
  • they are engaged in an educational activity that can’t be performed while wearing a mask.  For example, playing a wind instrument
  • they are eating or drinking
  • they are behind a barrier like plexiglass, or in a room by themselves.
Staff and students in K-12 must also wear a mask on the bus.

The Ministry of Education’s Health and Safety Guidelines outline the full requirements. This includes other exceptions for those with a disability or diverse ability.  

See the Masks page for more information on how to use a mask properly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, everyone should do a daily health check before they go to school. This means checking yourself (or your child) every day for symptoms of illness, including COVID-19.

The daily health check is the same as last year. You can use the BC Self-Assessment Tool to determine if you need testing.

Staying home when you are sick is one of the most effective ways to keep schools as low-risk for COVID-19.
 

School staff may need to provide information about their vaccination status to their school district if the local Medical Health Officer (MHO) issued a directive following the introduction of an Order from the PHO.‎

 

Everyone at school will follow the same guidance, regardless of whether they have been  vaccinated or not. 

 
Students in K-12, and all adults (including staff, volunteers and visitors) must wear a mask at school.
 
Extracurricular activities and inter-school events, including sports, arts, and other special interests, can happen in line with what’s allowed within local and provincial recommendations and Orders.

However, some extracurricular activities and inter-school events will look different compared to fall 2021. On the return to school in January 2022, extracurricular sports tournaments will be paused and in-person spectators will not be permitted.

 
 

COVID-19 Cases in Schools

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

Students and staff with mild symptoms may not need a test. If symptoms are mild, they can stay home until they feel well enough to return to regular activities.  

Students and staff who have tested positive should:

Completion of the form allows Public Health to monitor cases in schools. The information you provide is kept secure and is for public health assessment only. Public health may contact you to follow up. Your information is not shared with your school. 

Students and staff are not required to notify their school about a positive COVID-19 test. However, they are encouraged to notify their school if an absence is due to illness.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are identified as a close contact, you will need to self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 for 10 days after being exposed. You do not need to self-isolate but continue to monitor yourself for symptoms.


If you develop any symptoms, stay home until you feel better. You can use the BC Self-Assessment Tool app to determine if you need to get tested


Find out more about close contacts

 
 


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SOURCE: School Staff ( )
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