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

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Marcel Gagnon will be receiving an honorary degree this year from UNBC. (Photo submitted)
Lheidli T’enneh Nation elder to receive honorary degree from UNBC

Artist and advocate, Marcel Gagnon to be recognized June 25

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

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

Most Read