Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)

SD78 Briefs: COVID-19 exposures and safe schools, mental health training coming

Principal of alternate school TREC examines reward program for students

The following are highlights from the Nov. 17 Fraser Cascade School District (SD78) board meeting.

COVID exposures, prevention at SD78 schools

Superintendent Balan Moorthy reiterated his message that students are safe in SD78 schools, even as a pandemic continues, and that in school is where he wants to see students stay.

The school district has had two instances *of people who tested positive for COVID-19 having been in SD78 schools – one at Hope Secondary School on Oct. 30 and one at Agassiz Elementary Secondary School on Nov. 4, 5 and 6 – yet these involved only the two students who tested positive for COVID-19 Moorthy said.

An exposure, as defined by Fraser Health, is “a single person with [a] lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection who attended school during their infectuous period.” This compared to a cluster, where there are two or more with confirmed COVID-19 infections having attended school, and an outbreak which involves multiple people with confirmed COVID-19 infections and with transmission likely being widespread throughout the school. There have been very few outbreaks in schools in B.C., Moorthy said, and a few clusters including in Surrey school districts.

No other cases of COVID-19 came out of these exposure events Moorthy said. The district has had a very low exposure rate, he said, adding that “the only exposure rates have occured when those children have stepped out of the school environment and have perhaps gone to something public.”

Cleaning and disenfecting is ongoing as per the school-specific plans and the school district’s health and safety plans.

Read more: Fraser Cascade schools share school-specific re-start plans

“My biggest fear right now is loss of learning,” Moorthy said, adding that he hopes in-class instruction can continue as long as possible. B.C.’s education minister Rob Fleming said the government should keep schools open even if a lockdown to stop community transmission were to happen again, although he would defer to public health advice should cases worsen. we’ve learned from the early days of the pandemic that shutting down schools was probably a mistake when we should have focused on safety protocols,” he said, adding that despite the closure of four schools in the Fraser Health region transmission levels remain “incredibly low” in the schools still open.

Read more: B.C. education minister wants to avoid school closures completely

The fact that some students are still not learning is a major concern said Moorthy, even though the number of students not attending in-class instruction full time has gone from 237 to 176 across the school district. Those not in class could be either transitioning back to classes by the latest end of November (option 2 outlined earlier this fall by SD78), continuing online learning through the Western Canadian Learning Network and monitored by a classroom teacher (option 3) or families opting to homeschool (option 4).

“Kent elementary continues to be a concern, with our Indigenous community from Seabird, some of the surrounding communities, where they’re having a very big concern of coming back to school,” he said.

Moorthy referenced a letter sent to families whose children were in option 2, about making a decision on whether to return to in class learning. “The timing isn’t great” he acknowledged, yet the focus needs to be improving options for students as some of those in option 2 are not attending at all. “So by the end of November, into early December, students will either be in school, or we will be assigning them to a teacher who will help to monitor them online for the remainder of the school year.”

TREC to test out new student reward system

Principal Margaret Smiley said students at Two Rivers Education Centre, Hope’s alternate school, did better than expected during the two months the school was out during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were very concerned about that because our students need our assistance. It was a harsh time,” Smiley said. The school did not close completely, students were able to come in by appointment, and were already accustomed to an independent learning model that students in other schools were discovering possibly for the first time. “That was a very unreal, surreal couple of months but we came out on the other end of it.”

In a report to the SD78 board, Smiley wrote that course completion levels were slightly higher than the year before and above the three year average.

The last three years the school, which has around 60 to 70 students, has had mental health as the focus of their growth plan. Going forward, and inspired by the student success during the pandemic, the school will be focusing on attendance and course completions in their growth plan.

Smiley said this includes tinkering with how students are rewarded for progress. Currently, students receive rewards in the form of gift cards when they complete a course. Going forward, Smiley said the school may look at smaller rewards given more frequently. This would include coupons to local businesses given out when students complete course units. Course completions will be rewarded by having a students name entered into a draw held at school events twice a year.

Smiley hinted that she may be retiring at the end of the year. “I think this might be my last growth plan, although I did say that the last two years so one never knows,” she said.

Mental health learning in schools

Assistant superintendent Renge Bailie presented a program for mental health education in schools which will allow teachers and students to learn without placing a burden on teachers who are already exhausted. There is quite a need to support students, Bailie said, whose mental health challenges are exasterbated by the pandemic. This is being seen both by the school district as well as community partners.

The online Open Parachute Program will be starting in January in SD78, a program which brings mental health knowledge directly into the classroom through videos. There are also lessons for teachers, families as well as videos specifically related to COVID-19.

*Note: A third exposure for SD78 was listed on Fraser Health’s school exposure website as of Monday, Nov. 23. The exposure dates are Nov. 11, 12 and 13 at Hope Secondary. This exposure was not referenced at the Nov. 17 board meeting, which took place prior to the public listing. A fourth exposure, on Nov. 24, was confirmed by Moorthy. This has not been listed on the exposure website.

hope

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The route of the pink parade. The Record has blackened out the name of the teen. Facebook photo.
Pink-vehicle parade to be held Sunday in support of transgender teen assaulted in Mission

Teen and family to watch parade drive single file along waterfront at 3 p.m., Jan. 17

The Sts’ailes Community School in the winter of 2019. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Sts’ailes Community School to extend online learning until Feb. 8

The Sts’ailes First Nation remains closed to visitors

Agassiz resident Miel Bernstein is collecting sanitary products for locals in need. These products came from her donation drive before Christmas and were delivered to people in need in Chilliwack and Agassiz. (Contributed)
Agassiz resident collecting pads, tampons for women in need

The program will help provide menstrual and incontinence products for people in Chilliwack, Agassiz

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Seabird Island to receive COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks

All members 18 years and older will be eligible to be vaccinated

Prolific offender Jonathan David Olson (left) and Brodie Tyrel Robinson, both of Chilliwack, were convicted of several offences in BC Supreme Court in August 2019 in connection to a crime spree on the Canada Day long weekend in 2017.
Chilliwack gangster sentenced to 11.5 years in prison for 2017 crime spree

Jonathan Olson involved in shooting a fellow crime associate in the head

The slide on the east side of Harrison Lake came down on Wednesday (Jan. 13. 2021) but has not impacted the forest service road. (Screenshot/Tery Kozma video)
VIDEO: Harrison Lake rock slide caught on camera

The slide is not impacting the eastern forest service roads

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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 first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Most Read