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Home Covid-19 COVID-19: Okanagan parents prepare for delayed start to school

COVID-19: Okanagan parents prepare for delayed start to school

While school will resume as per normal on Tuesday for children of essential workers and those with special needs, for the vast majority of B.C. students, school will begin a week later than planned.

“They’re especially disappointed that they don’t get to go back and see their friends and their teacher that they love,” said Kyla Cameron, Kelowna, B.C., mother of twin girls Ainsley and Emery.

Cameron said she’s against the delayed start to school, which was announced by the provincial government last week in the wake of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“I don’t think that it’s right for the kids to keep them out of school,” Cameron told Global News. “They have the lowest risk rate, statistically, and they need their education.”

Read more:

B.C. delaying start of school until Jan. 10 for most K to 12 students

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She said closing schools while keeping busy places like malls open is unethical.

“You see the malls open and big box stores, it just doesn’t seem right that the kids are having to make the biggest sacrifice,” she said.

B.C. Education minister Jennifer Whiteside announced last Wednesday that the government was delaying the start of school by a week to give both education and public health officials time to assess the impact of Omicron.

“Omicron is a concern for us, of course, and it’s transmissibility but that’s what we’re going to be planning for in the next four days,” said Kevin Kaardal, superintendent of Central Okanagan Public Schools.

Kaardal said enhanced safety measures are being implemented including switching to virtual staff meetings, not congregating in large groups and postponing sports tournaments.

He said other options such as staggered recess times are also being considered.

Omicron concerns: Rising anxiety about return to class in B.C.

Omicron concerns: Rising anxiety about return to class in B.C.

Despite the highly-transmissible variant, Kaardal said he does expect schools to open next week, without any further delays.

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“I’m very confident because we had schools open when we didn’t have vaccines and now we do have vaccines and they’re even safer places,” he told Global News.

However, Kaardal acknowledged that with recent record case counts, staffing levels may become an issue and potentially lead to individual and temporary school closures,

“We have had experiences where we’ve had to shift to online for the classrooms,” Kaardal said. “We’ve had one outbreak in a school this year and had to close the school temporarily, so we have experience doing that, but there is a concern that could become more widespread as … staff stay home if they’re feeling sick.”

Read more:

Ontario families scramble as Omicron forces 2-week school closure

As school districts prepare to implement enhanced safety measures, one group said it’s not enough.

The Safe Schools Coalition B.C., made up of concerned parents, is calling for more layers of protection ahead of school re-opening.

Those measures include some of the following:

  • Move schools to remote learning until community transmission in a health authority is below 5-per cent positivity, measured by testing centres that have the capacity to PCR test all that request it, with results returned in a timely manner
  • Purchase HEPA air purifiers, as parts of Ontario have done, for all learning spaces
  • Provide N95/KN95 respirators (or equivalent) to all education staff and any students that need them
  • Provide accurate, timely reporting of positive cases that have resulted in a school exposure, to schools and the education community
  • Provide rapid tests to be used for surveillance purposes whenever a positive case is confirmed in a class

When asked about these enhanced protocols, Kaardal said the districts follow provincial health guidelines.

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He again encouraged staff and students to get vaccinated to help curb the spread of the virus.

While children enjoy an extra week of Christmas vacation, some parents, like Cameron, also worry about the impact the delayed start will have on their jobs, even if working from home.

“I bank on my time while they’re at school to get a lot done, productivity, and as good as they are, I still have to keep them entertained,” she said. “So yeah, it’s definitely inconvenient.”

School is set to resume on Jan. 10.

Click to play video: 'U.S. schools brace for skyrocketing COVID-19 cases as holidays wrap'

U.S. schools brace for skyrocketing COVID-19 cases as holidays wrap

U.S. schools brace for skyrocketing COVID-19 cases as holidays wrap

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