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School Staff

Learn about the prevention measures in place to keep schools low-risk.
Last updated: September 3, 2021

While schools will look closer-to-normal in September, we’re not back to normal just yet. 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 communicable disease plans.
  • Students, staff and parents/caregivers follow school communicable disease plans. 
  • Regions add measures when there is greater risk in a community. 
  • Public health conducts contact tracing for every case of COVID-19. 
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. 

Check back in early September 2021 for more information.


Preventing COVID-19 in Schools
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
  • Keeping detailed attendance records to help contact tracing
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces 
  • Ensuring ventilation systems are working effectively
  • Providing many opportunities for hand cleaning
  • Requiring most students and staff to wear masks indoors.

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 increased risk, a local Medical Health Officer may recommend additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Public health measures also help keep schools low-risk, including Provincial Health Officer orders, widespread COVID-19 testing and effective contact tracing. 

The public health guidance informs the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 School Settings (PDF), developed by the Ministry of Education with Indigenous rights holders, K-12 education and health partners. Schools and school districts must follow these guidelines.

More information will be added on prevention measures closer to school start. Check back in early September 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

While schools will look closer-to-normal in September, we’re not back to normal just yet. 

More people in our communities are protected from COVID-19 because they have been vaccinated with highly effective vaccines. This means schools will have different prevention measures in place this year that allow for more types of activities and interactions that are important for learning and development. The prevention measures in place will help prevent COVID-19 from spreading in schools and keep risk low.  

Schools in regions with greater risk might have additional measures in place, based on the recommendation of their local Medical Health Officer. This is more likely in communities where COVID-19 is spreading and not enough people are fully vaccinated. 

COVID-19 prevention measures are still needed in schools this year because children under age 12 cannot get vaccinated yet and more people 12 and older need to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.


 
Schools will continue to implement many of the same safety measures as last year to keep them as lower-risk sites for COVID-19. These include:

  • Spreading out in the available space,
  • Ensuring ventilation systems are working properly,
  • Wearing non-medical masks, 
  • Providing frequent opportunities for hand hygiene, and
  • Going outside more often. 
The prevention measures are intended to keep schools as lower-risk, while allowing more of the activities and interactions that are important for learning and development. 
 
While many prevention measures are the same, there are a few key things that are different this year: 

Widespread Vaccination: Most people in B.C. are protected from COVID-19 because they are vaccinated. Schools reflect what is happening in the community. By having many people vaccinated, the risk in communities and schools is lower. Vaccines are the most effective prevention measure against COVID-19, and are providing the protection needed to allow schools to be closer-to-normal this year. 

Regional Recommendations: Local Medical Health Officers will provide regional recommendations for schools in areas with increased risk. These are likely to be similar to measures that were in place last year, like restricting gatherings and events, focusing on individual activities, and limiting certain activities. Regional recommendations are decided by the local Medical Health Officer. This allows the measures in place to be relative to the risk in the community.    

More Types of Learning & Extracurricular Activities Allowed: Schools can return to classroom and learning environment activities that best meet the learning needs and preferences of students and educators. Extracurricular activities, including inter-school sports events, can happen in line with any related local public health orders and recommendations (if any are in place). 

No Learning Groups/Cohorts: Learning groups were recommended for the 2020/21 school year to reduce the number of different interactions a person had. We learned the type of interaction is more important than the number of interactions. Learning groups also significantly impacted learning and extracurricular opportunities. Schools will return to normal groupings of students and staff. 

Physical Distancing/Space Arrangement: Practicing physical distancing is no longer expected. Schools will continue to spread people out in the available space, and ensure there is enough room to prevent unintentional physical contact. Everyone is encouraged to respect others' personal space.
 
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.

Measures recommended will be proportional to the risk within that community and are likely to be similar to those in place last year, like limiting gatherings and events and certain types of activities.
 
Schools were low-risk settings for COVID-19 last year. We expect it to be the same this year, including in elementary schools where most students cannot be vaccinated yet, because effective prevention measures continue to be in place and most adults are vaccinated. 

As long as there is COVID-19 in our communities, staff or students might come to school when they can spread COVID-19. This is called an exposure. With prevention measures in place and our high levels of vaccination, exposures are less likely to lead to further spread.

The best way to protect those who can’t be vaccinated is for everyone eligible to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially important for adults who interact with children under 12. Everyone should also practice personal prevention measures, like staying home when they’re sick and following regional and provincial public health orders and recommendations. 
 
Currently, delta is the most commonly detected variant of concern in B.C. It spreads more easily than other variants and may cause more severe illness in adults who are not fully vaccinated. 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.  

The vaccines used in B.C. are working well against the Delta variant and all variants of concern. Being fully vaccinated with two doses provides more protection than a single dose. People who are fully vaccinated are less likely to get COVID-19 from the Delta variant, even if they are exposed, and are significantly less likely to experience severe illness if they do get sick. 

Currently there are not enough people in B.C. vaccinated against COVID-19. This means 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 Delta variant from impacting schools is for everyone eligible to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.  
 
 

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

Get vaccinated

People age 12 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 or the BCCDC resource on when to get tested for COVID-19.

Stay home when sick

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. 

When masks when recommended

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

All staff, adult visitors and volunteers, and students in Grades 4 to 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 from Grades 4 to 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 or the When to Get Tested Resource. 

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

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

 
Students in grade 4-12, and all adults (including staff, volunteers and visitors) must wear a mask at school.

Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 can wear a mask if they’d like to, based on their personal or family/caregiver’s choice. 
 
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.

This means school activities in  one area might be different from another area. In communities with greater risk or higher cases, there might be times when extracurricular activities and sports are temporarily paused.
 
 

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.  

Last year most school exposures did not result in any more cases. When they did, it was typically one or two other cases. With many people fully vaccinated and effective prevention measures in place, schools are expected to be low-risk for COVID-19.

Contact Tracing in Schools

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. 

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 be told to self-monitor or 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. 

    • If you do not receive a letter or phone call from public health, you can continue to go to school.

Clusters and outbreaks are different

Communicable disease plans help prevent COVID-19 from spreading at school. However, sometimes COVID-19 will spread at school.

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 take extraordinary measures, like closing the school for a period of time. 


Check back in early September 2021 to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Public health will continue to do contact tracing in schools, including letting close contacts know if they need to self-monitor or self-isolate if there was an exposure at school.

 
If you are identified by public health as a close contact, you will need to self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 for 14 days after being exposed, and get tested if any symptoms develop. 

Some close contacts may also need to self-isolate, including those who are not 14 days past their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Find out more about close contacts
 
 


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