An entire gym class is self-isolating for two weeks following the first confirmed COVID-19 exposures at the local high school in Williams Lake this week.
The quarantine comes following a news release Monday, Nov. 23, where School District 27 superintendent Chris van der Mark said Interior Health Authority (IH) confirmed a member of the school community tested positive for COVID-19.
That person is self-isolating at home with support from local public health teams.
By Wednesday, there were two known COVID-19 exposures at the school and contact tracing by IH resulting in the Grade 10 physical education class being told to self-isolate.
With known COVID cases in the community for a number of months now, albeit a low number, van der Mark said it was “just a matter of time” before a school would have an exposure to COVID.
“This is a really good reminder to double down and be vigilant,” van der Mark said. “It’s on us. Let’s do the best we can and make sure it doesn’t impact us negatively as a community.”
The safety and well-being of students, families and staff remains the district’s highest priority, he said, with strict health and safety protocols and procedures in place at the 700-student school.
van der Mark noted everyone should heed the directive of the provincial health officer to keep to immediate family at home, limit contacts outside of home and don’t travel outside the community if it is not necessary.
He believes being in schools poses a “significantly lower risk” than being in the community at large, noting 83 per cent of B.C.’s schools remain COVID-free.
At the board meeting Tuesday evening, van der Mark discussed COVID as part of his superintendent report citing that 27 school districts in the province remain COVID-free while 11 districts, such as SD27, have very few cases.
Currently face masks are required to be worn in common areas and hallways of schools, though the teachers’ union is pushing for a mask requirement in class. That mask policy hasn’t changed in Williams Lake, and there are no plans to close or alter how education is being delivered in SD27 schools right now.
Due to surging cases of COVID-19 in their province, the government of Alberta is shifting to an online education model for all students in grades 7 to 12 while schools in the Lower Mainland have also been impacted by the pandemic.
The superintendent is drafting a letter to students and guardians to be sent out later this week regarding the latest on the COVID situation, and said he plans to have IH host a third virtual town hall meeting in the near future to answer any questions around the topic.
On Wednesday (Nov. 25), IH reported 70 new cases overnight, for a total of 1,426, with 336 active cases and on isolation. Five people are in hospital, however, none are in ICU.