Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen to field COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

Nanaimo-Ladysmith has been selected by the B.C. Ministry of Education as a lead school district for a regional COVID-19 rapid response team.

The ministry previously announced health authority region-specific teams would be assembled, and in an e-mail, told the News Bulletin that teams will be “deployed to review recent cases and report back to the district to ensure everything is being done to maintain the health and safety of students and staff in B.C. schools.”

Specific duties could include reviewing school COVID-19 safety plans, working with school and district staff and health authority personnel to review significant school exposure events, making recommendations in response to findings and conducting safety assessments, the ministry said, with teams comprised of members from the school district and Island Health.

Dale Burgos, school district spokesperson, told the News Bulletin the district is currently working on a proposal that will be submitted Friday, Feb. 26.

“We’ve seen what other districts on the rapid response teams are looking at, at this point, and there could be an inclusion of somebody like an environmental health officer, for example,” said Burgos. “We’ll of course have the medical health officers on the Island involved in that team as well and being the district that’s named on it, we’ve got many practices in place that we could incorporate into a document that could be shared.

“That’s everything from first steps, when we hear of the exposure, to what forms need to be filled out to share with the ministry. From start to finish, all of that information will be included in these documents.”

After the proposal has been received, the ministry said it will be reviewed and amendments will be made, if necessary. The province previously announced it would provide a total of $900,000 for response teams. After proposals have been approved, districts will receive their allotment by early March, the ministry said. How much a team will receive will be based on the scope of the proposal and relative need, said the ministry.

The district has seen a number of COVID-19 exposures in recent weeks.

On Feb. 25, the district announced Dover Bay Secondary and McGirr and Uplands Park elementary schools had experienced a COVID-19 exposure, with the potential exposure date Feb. 22. Island Health completed contact tracing, the district said.

Mountain View Elementary and Ladysmith Secondary are also on the exposure list, and Nanaimo District Secondary and Bayview Elementary schools were taken off Monday and Tuesday respectively, said the district.

Scott Saywell, district superintendent and CEO, told trustees at their Feb. 24 board meeting that Mountain View is expected to be removed from the list on March 2 and Ladysmith Secondary on March 4, if there aren’t any further exposure incidents.

The district is also set to meet with the Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union to discuss rapid response teams on Friday, according to Denise Wood, union president.

Other districts named as rapid response teams are Peace River North, Vancouver, Central Okanagan and Surrey. There will also be a team for independent schools.

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