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British Columbia planning ‘enhanced safety measures’ for in-person return to K to 12

Click to play video: 'Omicron surge: COVID-19 average daily case counts soaring in B.C.' Omicron surge: COVID-19 average daily case counts soaring in B.C.
After a weekend of Christmas gatherings potentially fuelling indoor transmission, COVID-19 modellers expect B.C.'s case count will rise but as Richard Zussman reports, the increase may not be immediately reflected in the daily numbers as the province's testing capacity is maxed-out. – Dec 27, 2021

The B.C. government is currently planning for continued in-person learning when K to 12 students return to the classroom in the new year with enhanced safety measures.

In a statement, the minister of education says it is working closely with public health over the holidays to prepare specific direction for schools in advance of students and staff returning to schools in January.

“With the arrival of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, public health is monitoring the data extremely carefully,” the statement reads.

“We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer to ensure we are following the science and have the right safety measures in place for students and staff.”

Read more: B.C. reports 6,288 new COVID-19 cases over holiday period, breaks another record

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The provincial K-12 steering committee met last week and again on Monday to discuss new measures. The committee is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday with a goal to finalize enhanced safety measures for schools.

Some jurisdictions, including Manitoba and Quebec, are delaying the start of school until Jan. 10.

The new safety measures are expected to be communicated to school districts, independent school authorities and the public this week, ahead of the return to the classroom.

“In-person learning is crucial to the social and emotional well being of students,” the statement reads.

“The health and wellbeing of students, teachers and staff is our top priority, and we remain committed to ensuring all students are able to learn and be fully supported as the pandemic evolves.”

Click to play video: 'Education minister says all options on the table' Education minister says all options on the table
Education minister says all options on the table – Dec 17, 2021

The province has committed to making rapid tests available for the school system, but they will not be available until mid to late January.

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Some of these tests will be used to support continuity of in-person learning for K-12 students and staff, with 500,000 set aside for K-12 to be deployed as needed.

There will not be any special provisions to prioritize school staff for vaccine.

The province will be providing a full update on the booster rollout and doses administered on Wednesday, including any further un-booked appointment capacity.

“Many school staff were prioritized early for their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and would have then received the invite for their second dose early. As a result, the same school staff will receive their booster dose invitations earlier, based on the NACI recommended interval of at least six months between 2nd dose and booster shot,” a statement from the Ministry of Health reads.

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