Coronavirus: B.C. kids return to school Monday but anxiety among some parents remains high

As kids return to the classroom, there are concerns mounting over the nearly 50 cases detected at Surrey's Earl Marriott Secondary. Surrey School District Superintendent Jordan Tinney joined Neetu Garcha on Global News Morning with the latest on the situation.

B.C. kids return to school Monday following winter break but some parents are still concerned about sending their kids back.

Parents told Global News they are worried that families may have broken COVID-19 rules during the break.

As of Monday morning, more than 60,000 parents have signed an online petition asking the province to keep schools closed for another two weeks.

It also asks parents to pull their kids out of school on the first scheduled day of classes in protest.

There is also concern about the new variant of the illness detected in B.C. and that it could spread more easily in the school system.

Read more:
20K sign petition calling on B.C. to delay return to school by 2 weeks

Matt Westphal, president of the Surrey Teachers Association, told Global News he has already heard from a lot of teachers Monday morning about how they did not sleep well Sunday night and how they are really anxious about school resuming.

“Particularly, it’s not like they got a good break over the holidays — there were still exposure notices going out,” he said.

At Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey, superintendent Jordan Tinney sent a letter to parents telling them 50 cases involving individuals across five classes sharing common areas and structures had been identified, and those affected had been told to self-isolate over the holidays.

Read more:
Surrey high school records 50 COVID-19 cases across five classes

“What this points to is the problems in what’s being reported,” Westphal said. “When an exposure is reported at a school, because there were some notifications about exposures at Earl Marriott, they gave no indication of the scale. If the superintendent hadn’t put it out publically, there’s 50 cases, we would not have known.

“The public health office would not have reported that.”

Westphal said it makes it very difficult for parents to make a decision about sending their child to school as they don’t know if there’s been one exposure in the classroom or more exposures.

The province has maintained that classroom learning is safe, and that while there have been exposures in at least 526 B.C. schools, transmission has been rare.

At her Thursday briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province had no plans to delay the resumption of classes but had created a task force to learn from the experience of the first semester and improve communications.

Ontario has delayed the return to classrooms and will have students take part in online learning next week.

The U.K., where the new COVID-19 variant was first identified, has also pushed the return of classes back.

Read more:
Coronavirus — B.C. confirms first case of COVID-19 variant detected in U.K.

The province is scheduled to hold a briefing Monday at 3 p.m. updating the latest COVID-19 numbers in the new year. The briefing will be carried live on Globalnews.ca, BC1 and the Global BC Facebook page.

—with files from Simon Little

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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