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

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

A forensic anthropologist ruled bones found by the Columbia River Skywalk to be from a bear. Photo: Chilli Charlie/Unsplash
Bones found by Trail bridge, ruled not human

A Trail man made the discovery on Friday, April 8

ANKORS commemorated those who died due to drug poisoning at International Overdose Awareness Day on Sept. 1, 2020. Photo: Tyler Harper
Trail, Rossland advocates commemorate lives lost to opioid crisis

Wednesday marks five years since B.C. declared the opioid crisis a provincial health emergency.

”Societies that allow the voices of dissent to be silenced cannot call themselves democratic,” writes Dave Carter. Photo: Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash
Letter: The dangers of censorship

Letters to the Editor can be emailed to editor@trailtimes.ca

On April 6, Pacific Coastal Airlines marked 15 years of providing air service at the Trail Regional Airport. Photo: Twitter @PacificCoastal
Carrier celebrates 15 years at Trail airport

Pacific Coastal Airlines has adopted additional safety measures during the pandemic.

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Most Read