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

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Despite growing concerns about the new coronavirus variant and a surge in post-holiday cases, classes were back in session today in B.C., even as many other provinces have pushed back the restart date by a week. Richard Zussman reports – Jan 4, 2021

A Surrey, B.C., high school is notifying parents of an alarming number of COVID-19 cases that required affected individuals in the school to self-isolate over the winter break.

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Coronavirus: B.C. teachers anxious about return to school, impact of holiday gathering – Jan 4, 2021

In a letter to parents on Jan. 3 and obtained by Global News, superintendent Jordan Tinney advised that 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.

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Notices continued to be sent during the break “due to the tracing and new information that was coming to light after the winter break began but related to that last week of school,” Tinney said.

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A series of letters sent by the Fraser Health Authority “was a precautionary measure, and Fraser Health believes that there was no further transmission beyond this core group (of 50 cases across five classes),” he said.

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Renewed concerns as students return to schools – Jan 4, 2021

Tinney told Global News Monday he does not know the breakdown of the 50 cases but he suspects many of them are students.

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“There had been a number of exposures in the last week of school and then we had to send out self-isolation letters on Dec. 20,” he said. “We sent a follow-up to the school community on Dec. 23, saying that we needed time to meet with [the health authority] and to review. We met with health on Saturday and so the letter [Sunday] was a follow-up to that.”

Tinney said they are following up in each situation with Fraser Health and to make sure all COVID-19 guidelines are being followed.

“These are busy places and staff are doing everything they can,” he said.

Earl Marriott Grade 12 student Olivia Henders decided on Sunday night to stay home rather than head back into the classroom.

“I made the decision to stay home and not go to school, for the safety of myself and my family,” she told Global News.

She will now stay home for two weeks and juggle the task of keeping up with lessons she will be missing from in-class learning.

“No one I know has made the same decision but I know I’m not the only one when I say the student body at Earl Marriott Secondary feels uncomfortable and unsafe and stressed when we are going to school now,” Henders said. “Schools shouldn’t be a place to be stressed and worry about your health”

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Read more: Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey

A number of concerned parents posting on the BC School Covid Tracker Facebook page expressed concern as to why an outbreak has not been declared at Earl Marriott so close to the date to return to class of Jan. 4.

In late November, Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey involving 16 positive cases.

A spokesperson for Surrey Schools in an email deferred to Fraser Health with respect to when an outbreak is declared, saying the district “relies on the advice of our medical health experts to guide the safe operation of our schools.”

Fraser Health’s website defines an outbreak as “multiple individuals with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection when transmission is likely widespread within the school setting.”

Read more: COVID-19-stricken B.C. school ‘should have been closed a week ago,’ say parents

Tinney said the district is implementing further measures and working with the health authority to avoid similar situations in the future. He also reminded parents to do a daily health check and not send a sick child to school.

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