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B.C. schools bracing to close ‘at moment’s notice’ due to Omicron

Click to play video: 'B.C. teachers concerned about back to school safety'
B.C. teachers concerned about back to school safety
There are plenty of worries still tonight over the return to school for B.C. K to 12 students on Monday. Dr. Bonnie Henry has made it clear that the opening will not be pushed back again. As Richard Zussman reports, teachers feel not enough has been done to make the classrooms safe or explain what happens if there's an outbreak. – Jan 5, 2022

With rising cases of COVID-19 across the province, B.C. schools are bracing for the potential of immediate “functional” closures.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside told a news conference on Tuesday that learning would transition to online for short periods of time if there are not enough staff to operate the schools.

There is some optimism the closures would be short-lived because Omicron’s transmission period is shorter than other strains of COVID-19.

“We may see more kids showing up in schools with COVID than we did before simply because there is more of it out there,” Whiteside said.

“If there are disruptions due to Omicron, we will make sure they move quickly through the system.”

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Students are all expected to return to the classroom on Jan. 10.

Click to play video: 'Calls for B.C. schools, businesses to make contingency plans as Omicron variant spreads'
Calls for B.C. schools, businesses to make contingency plans as Omicron variant spreads

The province is increasingly relying on health and safety checks to protect the school system. Anyone entering a school is required to self-assess for symptoms and cannot enter if they are not feeling well.

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Schools are also working on staggering class start and stop times to minimize interaction in the hallways.

Surrey teacher Annie Ohana said it is still unclear when a school would determine they must close and what should be done if a teacher is a close contact of someone who has tested positive but is not showing symptoms.

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“We already have staff asking what should they do. Should they isolate if they have been exposed or if they have a family member that has tested positive for COVID?” Ohana asked.

“Already, we are playing the numbers game. What actually causes a closure?”

Click to play video: '‘Inevitable’ that BC back to class will be online'
‘Inevitable’ that BC back to class will be online

The province will not be providing any additional funding at this point for school air filters or new masks.

Public health officials have suggested parents supply their children with a well-fitted, three-layered mask, and not a single-layer cloth one.

These is also confusion about how quickly parents will be notified if the school needs to close due to low staffing.

“We are telling parents we may need to close at any given moment. If we have too many cases, we will need to shut down,” Ohana said.

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