FILE – A crossing guard stops traffic as a student wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrives at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

FILE – A crossing guard stops traffic as a student wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrives at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Parents struggle to navigate in-person school, child care amid B.C.’s surging 3rd wave

Both Toronto and Peel have shut down schools for in-person learning

After news broke this week that two major regions in Toronto would be shutting down schools for two weeks after Easter, many in B.C. wondered if schools here would follow suit.

But as of Tuesday (April 6) morning, as kids in the Peel region of Ontario logged onto online learning platforms, and those in Toronto learned they would go remote as of Wednesday, most students in B.C. went back to class even as the province’s daily case count topped 1,000 on multiple occasions.

In many ways, the situation in B.C. is similar to that of Peel. While B.C.’s population is about 3.5 times bigger than that of Peel, both places have seen their positivity rate – the percentage of COVID tests that come back positive – increase by more than three per cent in the past few weeks. on Feb. 27, Peel’s positivity rate was 6.6 per cent, while B.C.’s was 6.5 per cent. As of March 31, the last dates available, Peel’s positivity rate was 9.6 per cent, while B.C.’s was 9.9 per cent. Positivity rates in some regions of the province, like the hard hit Fraser Health region, were even higher.

On Monday, Peel Public Health issued an order closing schools and moving students to remote learning for a two-week period starting Tuesday.

“Late last week and over the weekend, Peel saw a significant increase in case counts and the spread of COVID-19 variants,” the health authority said.

“This closure will allow students and staff at least two weeks out of schools to break any chains of transmission and protect them from exposure.”

Toronto, with a 7.6 per cent positivity rate, followed suit Tuesday.

READ MORE: All Toronto schools to close for in-person learning as of Wednesday

Child care programs will remain open for kids under the age of six, but Toronto and Peel grade school students cannot attend child care centres or day camps during the next two weeks.

One Vancouver teacher told Black Press Media they were concerned about returning to school.

“I am a special education teacher and go to multiple schools a day and cross cohorts,” they said. “I work with students in small spaces – the young ones are not wearing masks. I am scared to go to work – the variants are spreading, and we have no idea when we will be vaccinated.”

A vaccination program for frontline workers in B.C. was paused when international data showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine could contribute to blood clots. So far, only Surrey teachers have been vaccinated.

A Nanaimo parent told Black Press Media their family had already pulled their son out of his Grade 2 class last week.

“The recent school mask mandate only went down to Grade 4, which means many of my son’s classmates will remain unmasked. Additionally, and as predicted, the more transmissible variant cases are currently spiking, even on Vancouver Island,” Tom Jackman said in a message. “This not only increases the likelihood that my son will get sick, but that he might get very sick. In also increases the likelihood that if he gets sick, myself and my partner will get sick.”

READ MORE: Most kids with serious inflammatory illness had mild COVID-19

Jackman said that while he feels that his son’s teacher has tried her best, he’s not happy with the overall situation.

“There have been no improvements in ventilation, no admission that COVID is spread through aerosols, and generally no acknowledgement that the ‘layers of protection’ as they currently exist aren’t working,” he said. There are currently two active exposure alerts for Nanaimo schools, and there were six in March alone.

Jackman also has more complications to worry about: a chronic illness. He developed severe Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) after what was believed to be a bout of SARS (another coronavirus) in 2004. That leaves Jackman with a higher risk of severe illness or even death from COVID-19.

However, despite his condition, he’s not yet eligible for a vaccine in B.C. – even though both he and his wife, as dual citizens, would have been eligible in the U.S. already.

“Ultimately, all these factors combined just became too much to justify the additional risks of having my son in class full-time.”

Another parent told Black Press Media that even though his daughter is in daycare, not school, his family made the decision to keep her home.

Burnaby parent Brett Favaro said he’s been watching the child positivity rates released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

“These are a proxy for how good of a job we’re doing detecting all the cases,” said Favaro, who is an adjunct professor of biology at SFU. The family first pulled their daughter in November, when they noticed cases were on the rise.

“We applied the same logic in the winter,” he said.

“We have ramped down daycare for weeks prior to pulling her, keeping her only there in mornings which is primarily outdoor play time. Thanks to keeping her home, we actually had our daughter home for most of the exposure period that occurred when our daycare was hit by COVID. We still had to self-isolate for two weeks (well, she did… the letter said we did not have to isolate). We have not returned to daycare, as risk has only increased.”

Black Press Media has reached out to the B.C. government for comment on the school situation. Health officials are expected to provide an update on the province’s COVID-19 situation on Tuesday afternoon.

READ MORE: Masks now mandatory for students in Grade 4 and up, B.C. confirms

READ MORE: B.C.’s frontline worker vaccine program in flux as AstraZeneca use paused for under-55s


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press files)
Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. McDonald, QC reviewed the evidence and determined reasonable grounds exist to believe in officer may have committed offenses. (Black Press files)
Crown considering charges against Williams Lake Mountie after high-speed pursuit: police watchdog

IIO says the man, who was arrested, sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries from the incident

An RCMP cruiser flashes its light as it speeds up Highway 97. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Officers suffer minor injuries after a fight with a prohibited driver

The 44-year-old man resisted arrest and shoved an officer to the ground

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Ken Jensen is launching a campaign to keep access to his audio library books. (Photo submitted).
White Cane Club president lobbies to preserve audio book access

Ken Jensen is urging others to send letters to federal government to preserve funding for CELA.

Sarah Smith is a bereavement worker with 100 Mile Hospice. (Kelly Sinoski - 100 Mile Free Press).
‘Grief never goes away’: Hospice seeks to add programs

Growing demand for bereavement services in the South Cariboo region.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

A large illuminated heart was installed on the roof of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital May 1, 2020. (VJH Foundation photo)
Three deaths linked to COVID-19 outbreak in Vernon hospital

Interior Health reports two additional deaths at VJH

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Most Read