People walk past Cambridge Elementary School, which was ordered closed for two weeks by Fraser Health due to a COVID-19 outbreak, in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday, November 15, 2020. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

People walk past Cambridge Elementary School, which was ordered closed for two weeks by Fraser Health due to a COVID-19 outbreak, in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday, November 15, 2020. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Schools exempt from new mask mandate, but concern mounting in Surrey

Community rallies behind Cambridge teacher battling COVID-19 in hospital

Despite a provincial mandate for masks in all public indoor and retail spaces, schools are still exempt.

In her COVID-19 briefing Thursday (Nov. 19). provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said schools are “not public open spaces.” However, masks are mandatory in high-traffic areas within middle and high schools.

“We don’t expect children to wear masks sitting at their desks all day long,” she said. Older students in Ontario and some Quebec schools are required to wear masks while in their classrooms.

READ ALSO: Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C., Nov. 19, 2020

In a social media post, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation stated its displeasure with the lack of a full mask mandate for schools.

“The Provincial Health Office has chosen not to mandate masks in #bced (sic) schools even as they make them mandatory in other public spaces. We continue to say to teachers, wear masks. Work with your colleagues to create a culture of mask wearing. Model it in your classes,” the union said.

This comes as students and teachers at Cambridge Elementary officially started online learning Wednesday, after the school was officially closed until Nov. 30 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

During Wednesday’s (Nov. 18) board meeting, Surrey school district Superintendent Jordan Tinney said the closure, which was announced Saturday evening, was part of “very substantial measures.”

READ ALSO: COVID outbreak forces Surrey school to close for two weeks, Nov. 14

“There have been other closures, but those other closures, they termed functional closures which means that they actually don’t have enough staff to make sure the school can stay open,” he said.

“Whereas with this one, it’s a declaration that there has been transmission in the school beyond a cohort.”

The school is closed until Nov. 30, and Tinney said there were additional measures announced Sunday for mass testing of all students and staff in the building and self-isolation for two weeks “for anyone who had been in the building.”

With that, he added it is a “very different situation” with having to move to provide education when both staff and students are in self-isolation.

The Surrey Teachers’ Association president Matt Westphal said there is a “fair bit of work” moving to remote learning at such short notice.

As it’s the first closure in the district, and it happened over the weekend, Westphal said that for both the district staff and the teachers, it’s a matter of figuring out how to handle that.

He said he’s heard of one school that has told its staff to bring home teaching materials each day, including laptops.

“I’ve heard of at least one school where they were given that advice, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to have to shut down, but if they’re seeing a number of cases … I think everyone’s realizing we have to start turning our minds (to) If we have to shift to working remotely, what can we put in place now that will help smooth that process?”

Westphal said there is “mounting concern” with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in Surrey.

“People are wondering, ‘OK, this probably won’t be the last school that happens to and which one will be next?’” he said. “Some schools have had a lot of exposures. They’ve had classes self-isolating, others told to self-monitor.”

On Thursday evening (Nov. 19), the district announced 19 exposures at different schools. That’s the most announced in one day.

Throughout the district, several schools have hit double-digits for reported exposures since Sept. 8. The schools with the most exposures are: Tamanawis Secondary (12), Panorama Ridge Secondary (11), Sullivan Heights Secondary (11), Frank Hurt (10), Enver Creek Secondary (7), Queen Elizabeth Secondary (7) and Cambridge Elementary (6).

Schools – COVID exposures
Infogram

Meantime, the Cambridge community has rallied together to support the school’s music teacher Darlene Lourenco.

According to a GoFundMe, both Darlene and her husband Tony have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with Darlene fighting the virus in hospital. On Nov. 13, the GoFundMe organizer Amy Bateman said Darlene had been taken to the ICU “as her oxygen saturation is quickly declining.”

By Nov. 16, Bateman said Darlene remained “stable,” but she “continues to require oxygen support.” Tony, she said, is asymptomatic and under isolation.

As of Friday afternoon (Nov. 20), 783 people had donated $38,001 to the GoFundMe. The original goal was $5,000.

Westphal said he is “really concerned” for Darlene, and “also for all the other people, including in other schools, who have gotten COVID. She’s certainly not the only teacher that’s tested positive for COVID.

“I would say having somebody in an intensive care unit really demonstrates the potential danger that people face.”

He said many people do recover, but some have a “much harder road.”

“We certainly have quite a few people who are medically vulnerable who may have requested an accommodation to be able to work remotely from home which was denied. They’re going into school every day and they’re feeling afraid because if they get it, they’re at a far greater risk of complications.”

READ ALSO: Teachers, staff should be included in contact tracing: Surrey Teachers’ Association president, Oct. 29, 2020

– With files from Katya Slepian



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusEducationSurrey

Just Posted

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

City of Surrey photo
Surrey starts Slow Streets pilot project

Speed limits have been reduced in six Surrey neighbourhood zones for one year to monitor impact on residents

Gymnast Shallon Olsen. (Photo: olympic.ca)
Olympics-bound Surrey gymnast Shallon Olsen enters sports hall of fame – in Coquitlam

She was the youngest member of Team Canada when she made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

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

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read