Advertisement

‘Long time overdue’: West Kelowna, B.C. school moving to remote learning as COVID-19 cases spread

Mar Jok Elementary in West Kelowna has gone to remote learning after a COVID-19 outbreak. Courtesy: SD23

Mar Jok Elementary School in West Kelowna, B.C., is going back to remote learning as COVID-19 cases continue to mount.

Interior Health’s Medical Health Officer has declared a COVID-19 school outbreak and is asking all members of the school community to self-monitor for symptoms and get tested if they are sick.

Read more: West Kelowna case counts rise while rest of Central Okanagan under control

“The declaration of an outbreak and temporary closure of the physical school to in-class learning is an important safety measure,” Kevin Kaardal, superintendent and CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, said in a press release.

“We are confident in our staff’s proven ability to minimize the disruption to learning and transition to remote learning for students.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'UBCO researchers develop alternative method to testing for COVID-19' UBCO researchers develop alternative method to testing for COVID-19
UBCO researchers develop alternative method to testing for COVID-19 – Nov 7, 2021

“Interior Health has worked closely with our administrators to protect students and staff, and we are well prepared to adapt to safety measures such as this to prevent the spread of communicable disease.”

Interior Health identified increased COVID-19 activity at the school in recent weeks and asked several school community members to self-isolate.

Despite this and other measures taken by school staff, a handful of exposures continued to occur, prompting Interior Health to recommend the temporary suspension of in-class learning.

In its letter to Mar Jok families, Interior Health commended the school and school district for going above and beyond to implement additional environmental and administrative measures to prevent transmission.

That said, it wasn’t enough. The president of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association said it should have been closed earlier as their have been weeks of issues.

Story continues below advertisement

“In the case of Mar Jok, this is a long time overdue as far as we’re concerned,” she said. “We are relieved that the school will be going remote but we want kids in schools … nobody wants to get this state.”

Bauhart said there were so many absences at that school that numerous classes were out.

The concern now is that other schools are being affected, but Bauhart hasn’t heard to what extent as of yet.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Can doctors refuse unvaxxed patients? Complaints suggest this is already happening' COVID-19: Can doctors refuse unvaxxed patients? Complaints suggest this is already happening
COVID-19: Can doctors refuse unvaxxed patients? Complaints suggest this is already happening – Nov 5, 2021

In recent weeks, case counts have started to spike in West Kelowna, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

It publishes a map illustrating the average daily new-case-rate per 100,000 population, by local health area. In the week of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, West Kelowna was awash in deep purple, making it stand out from neighbouring communities. That means, like Okanagan COVID-19 problem-areas Enderby, Armstrong and Lumby, it is now contending with 15 to 20 new cases a day, per 100,000 population. Its present case rate is 16.

Story continues below advertisement

In contrast, Okanagan Mission has an average case rate of six, Downtown Kelowna has seven, and Lake Country and Glenmore have four. Even rural Central Okanagan, which includes Peachland and Joe Rich, is seeing a case rate of 15, placing it in a lower category.

Read more: British Columbians to be eligible for COVID-19 booster shot 6 to 8 months after second dose

What that means for kids isn’t great. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has often said that school exposures are a reflection of what’s happening in the greater community. That appears to be the case in the Central Okanagan, where West Kelowna public schools are showing the most.

In addition to the West Kelowna public school, two independent schools within Interior Health have closed their doors in recent days due to COVID-19.

Click to play video: 'Why are fully vaccinated British Columbians still dying of COVID-19?' Why are fully vaccinated British Columbians still dying of COVID-19?
Why are fully vaccinated British Columbians still dying of COVID-19? – Nov 4, 2021

Vernon Christian School closed Nov. 4 and is reopening Nov. 18, due to 39 cases associated with the outbreak. Both the secondary and elementary campuses on Pleasant Valley Road are closed.

Story continues below advertisement

Salmon Arm’s King’s Christian School also has an outbreak and is closed. There were 35 cases associated with the outbreak.

Sponsored content