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School Staff

Learn about the health and safety measures in place to support safe school operations.
Students and staff 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



Learn more about the Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools (PDF).

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 rightsholders, K-12 education and health partners. Schools and school districts must follow these guidelines. 

Frequently Asked Questions


The same measures (PDF) that reduce risk in your school reduce risk in your classroom. These measures work together to provide multiple layers of protection. They include:
  • Staff and students staying home when they are sick
  • Improved hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (covering your coughs and sneezes)
  • Organizing the room to space people out as much as possible
  • Designing and implementing activities that reduce prolonged, close, face-to-face contact
  • Wearing a mask 

 
Accumulating local, national and international evidence continues to show that schools are not higher risk settings for COVID-19 compared to other community settings or within households. Staff in schools are not at increased risk of COVID-19 compared to other professions that involve contact with others. 

Consistently practicing personal preventive measures like physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and wearing a mask help reduce risk in your classroom. 
 
School medical officers have monitored cases of COVID-19 in schools since school started in September. They have seen that schools carry a low risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to the comprehensive health and safety plans in place. 

School medical officers continue to report that very few exposures result in transmission occurring at school. When transmission does occur at school, it typically results in a small number of additional cases (less than five). International research has also demonstrated that, when multiple protective measures are in place (such as those in B.C. schools), the risk of transmission in schools is low. 

While COVID-19 is present in our communities, there will be students and staff with COVID-19 in schools. 
 
Schools have multiple health and safety measures in place that work together to provide layers of protection. This includes learning groups, which reduce the number of close interactions between different people in a school during the day. 

Within learning groups, there is a focus on spreading people out as much as possible and implementing activities that reduce prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.  

With these measures in place, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is reduced while enabling most students to attend school in-person in a close-to-normal environment.  
 
 
School-Based Staff Safety
School staff play an important role in keeping schools safer by following the safety measures below. 

Daily Health Checks

Daily health checks mean checking yourself or your child every morning for COVID-19 symptoms.  

Stay Home When Sick or Self-Isolating

Physical Distancing and Staff Interactions

  • Physical distancing means reducing close contact with others.
  • Limit close, face-to-face interactions with other staff during social activities, in staff common areas and during meetings.

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. 

K-12 staff 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.
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.
  • Learn more about masks on the BCCDC website.. 
  • Further guidance is available from WorkSafeBC.
  • Learn how to properly wear a mask

 Content Editor ‭[3]‬



Why has mask guidance changed?
Mask recommendations have been updated to reflect what we have learned here 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.






Staff may also review their own school’s health and safety plan by using this School Health and Safety Checklist (PDF).

Additional resources for staff can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website.


Frequently Asked Questions


 

All school staff as well as middle and secondary 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.
Staff as well as middle and secondary school students should wear a mask on buses.

Elementary students don’t have to wear a mask at school, but can if they or their family would like them to. 

School staff and administrators can use the School Health and Safety Checklist (PDF) to assess their school safety plan. This outlines key health and safety measures that should be in place to help make your school a low-risk setting. ‎

 

If someone in your household tests positive, you and everyone in your household should self-isolate. Public health will contact you with further instructions. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, you should seek testing.

 
Most people shouldn’t be at school if they are sick. If they feel sick, they should stay home.

Some people may attend school with symptoms of illness that are due to a pre-existing condition (like allergies) or are sustained minor symptoms from an illness that has resolved. For example, those recovered from COVID-19 can have a sustained cough for up to six weeks. 

If you are concerned about a staff member or student who is attending school and exhibiting symptoms of illness, bring it to the attention of your principal. If it is determined the person shouldn’t be at school, guidance is available on what to do next (PDF).

 
 
COVID-19 Cases in Schools

When COVID-19 is in a community, there is a risk that COVID-19 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. B.C. public health data and reports
  3. National and international research (For example: NCCMT Evidence Review, ECDC Technical Report)

Frequently Asked Questions

Sometimes a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, but public health determines they weren’t infectious at school. As there is no additional risk to anyone at the school, public health does not contact the school or provide any notifications to the school community. 

If public health determines the person who tested positive for COVID-19 was infectious at school, they may include members of the school community in contact tracing. Who public health talks to is determined on a case by case basis and the information they collect during their interviews. 

Public health contacts everyone who they think may be a close contact of the person who tested positive by phone call or letter. If public health completes contact tracing and determines you are not a close contact, they will not contact you.
Schools are important places for children to learn and connect with others. Supporting children to receive full-time, in-person learning also offers considerable societal and individual benefits, especially for those who already experience social and educational inequities. 

Increasing evidence shows schools do not appear to result in significant increases in community transmission of COVID-19, especially when health and safety measures are routinely implemented.

Additional information is available from the BCCDC September 2020 report Impact of School Closures on Learning, Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF).
 
 
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