Phased Start Back to School in January for SD73

Posted On Friday December 31, 2021

On Wednesday, December 29, 2021, representatives from the Ministries of Education and Health gathered all BC board chairs and school superintendents to share the plan for a phased return to school in January 2022.

The meeting was led by Minister Jennifer Whiteside; Stephanie Higginson, President of British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA); Dr. Réka Gustafson, Public Health and Wellness and Deputy Provincial Health Officer, who provides leadership to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), and Dr. Geoff McKee, Public Health Physician and Medical Director for Population and Public Health at the BCCDC. It was scheduled prior to a news conference held by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Minister Adrian Dix, and Minister Jennifer Whiteside at 3:00 pm to provide notice of the announcement to school jurisdiction leaders.

“I was relieved to hear that this phased start in January is related to the need for preparation time for school and district leaders to prepare for enhanced safety measures and not as a strategy for managing COVID outbreaks,” stated Board Chair Heather Grieve.

In that press conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a phased return to school for January 2022. Based on this announcement, the BC Ministry has indicated that all students are to return to school on January 10, 2022. Some students can attend school on January 4, 2022:

  • Students with disabilities and diverse abilities
  • Students whose parents work in the health care system
  • Students whose parents are other essential workers, as school district capacity allows. Please refer to this government list of essential services.

Superintendent Dr. Rhonda Nixon explained, “More information about plans for learning continuity and for enhanced measures will be made available to staff and parents once we have had the opportunity to review and discuss them.” She reinforced, “Schools will be communicating with parents and families about what to expect upon return to school on January 10.”

Many of the previously implemented safety measures will continue such as using the daily health check; staying home when sick; wearing masks that fit well (non-medical masks are permitted); limiting time in crowded locations; proper respiratory and hand etiquette, and maintaining personally respectful spaces between people.

Enhanced safety measures have been published and the key changes are as follows:

  • Reinforcing the measures as outlined above;
  • Arranging classrooms for maximum space between students and staff;
  • Limiting visitors to the school/worksite to those that are supporting activities that are of benefit to student learning and well-being (e.g., teacher candidates, meal program volunteers, etc);
  • Reducing crowding at transition times such as staggered start/stop times, breaks, lunches;
  • Holding student and staff gatherings virtually rather than in person;
  • In keeping with the guidelines, practices and individual games are permitted;
  • No spectators or audiences permitted at this time;
  • Pausing school tournaments.

School District 73’s Board of Education holds staff and student health and safety in extremely high regard amid the changing COVID-19 landscape. Throughout the pandemic, the District has, and will, continue to work directly with Interior Health and follow the guidance and orders put in place by the Provincial Health Officer.

“Thank you to the community for continuing to work with us to ensure that our students, staff, and visitors are safe,” shared Board Chair Heather Grieve. “Along with the implementation of the District’s Communicable Disease Prevention Plan and school site-specific prevention plans, SD73 will collaborate to revise those plans as directed by Public Health, WorkSafe BC, Ministry of Education, and the District’s safety committees as needed.”



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