Delayed Return to School
I hope this letter finds you healthy, safe and in the company of loved ones. On Wednesday, Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside and Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry held a joint news announcement regarding the delayed return to school for students for the remainder of the 2021/2022 school year. To allow schools to adapt to the impacts of the Omicron variant that is impacting our province, all K-12 students will return to school on Monday, January 10, 2022.
All school district staff will be at work during the week of Tuesday, January 4, 2022, and using this time to update our health and safety protocols and to develop plans for continuity of learning for the coming weeks and months. Current data suggests that the surging Omicron variant has a much higher rate of transmission, a shorter incubation period, and milder respiratory effects than previous variants. As such, district staff will be using the available time next week to ensure continuity of instruction in the event that we institute functional school closures in the weeks ahead.
While there will be no formalized instruction next week, schools will be open from January 5 to 7 for a limited number of students to support families of health care workers under the age of 12, students in care, and students designated with special education needs. Parents who meet any of these criteria are asked to contact your child’s school as soon as possible to confirm attendance. Additionally, if you currently receive bus transportation to and from school for your child, please notify your school Principal so appropriate transportation arrangements may be made.
K-12 Health & Safety Measurers
While our school district will continue to reinforce our existing health and safety measures of mask-wearing in accordance with the Provincial Health Officer Order, maximizing space, conducting daily health checks, regular hand hygiene and cleaning surfaces at least once a day, the following new measures will also be implemented when schools reopen:
- Maximizing space between people through different space configurations (e.g,. limit and, whenever possible, avoid face-to-face seating arrangements);
- Preventing crowding during class transition times (e.g., staggered entry and breaks);
- Holding school gatherings and events virtually (e.g., assemblies);
- Holding staff-only gatherings virtually (e.g., meetings, professional development activities);
- Limiting school and district visitors to those who are supporting activities that directly benefit student learning and well-being (e.g., teacher candidates, immunizers, meal program volunteers, etc.); and
- Pausing all extracurricular sports tournaments.
It is vital that staff, students and families are prepared to safely return to school during this next phase of the pandemic. To ensure continued alignment with BCCDC direction, an addendum to the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings has been created. It outlines focused actions and additional prevention measures K-12 schools must implement in response to the recent rise of cases of COVID-19 due to the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant.
Over the course of the next week, our district and school teams will be working on updating our school’s restart strategy, Toti:ltcha, and informing all staff of the new measures being implemented.
Families can continue to visit www.abbyschools.ca/covid-19 for the latest district updates. School-specific information will be available on your child’s school website by Friday, January 7, 2022.
We appreciate your understanding and support as we implement these expanded health and safety measures across our schools and look forward to welcoming all students back on January 10th. Best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy new year!
Dr. Kevin Godden
Superintendent of Schools