Mike Skinner has faith there is light at the end of the tunnel as COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up and another school year draws to an end.
In April, there were four COVID-19 exposure events reported in schools within School District 91. Fort St. James Secondary School got flagged three times, and Evelyn Dickson Elementary School had one exposure event.
The assistant superintendent for SD 91 said it’s never a good thing to receive an exposure notice for the novel coronavirus that has caused a lot of stress within local communities.
However, looking on the positive side, Skinner believes district staff have a full understanding of the procedures laid out by Northern Health (NH) and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer to keep everyone safe.
“We have no indications this year in School District 91 that any of the exposures have led to in-school transmission, so that shows us that the health and safety protocols that have been outlined from the provincial sources are working.”
Cleaning efforts increased in schools with the hiring of extra staff, Skinner said.
Over the last 30 days, NH has identified exposure events in at least 75 schools in the NH region that covers an area of nearly 600,000 square kilometers.
In terms of the latest case at Fort St. James Secondary School in April, NH sent a letter on April 28 to parents, guardians, staff and students for an exposure event that occurred April 19-21. The other exposure events at the secondary school were identified April 14 – 16, and April 20.
“Please be reassured that the current COVID safety plans in our schools, when followed correctly, are very effective in preventing transmission,” NH medical health officer Dr. Rakel Kling stated in the April 28 letter.
Skinner said the school district hopes that by mid-May a vast majority of adults will have received their first dose of vaccinations. “And that’s a positive sign,” he said, noting the vaccination efforts in the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.
Vaccinations for anyone 18+ in the Vanderhoof area are anticipated to commence Friday, April 30.
Skinner said there has been an uptake of staff getting students outdoors to learn as often as possible and that the district, with their careers department, hopes to roll out outdoor learning classrooms in all of their communities over the next couple of years.
“That’s probably one of the positive things that could be the lasting legacy of a terrible pandemic—that outdoor learning and getting outside is going to be more widespread than pre-covid.”
With about nine weeks of school remaining, the district is in the midst of planning for the 2021-2022 year and what impacts COVID-19 could have.