A seven-year-old from Langley is begging the education minister to make him and his fellow students wear masks and take COVID precautions when school resumes.
His mom, Dedrie Olver, posted the letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside on her Twitter feed, garnering lots of supportive comments.
“Dear Minister Whiteside:
I am going into grade 3, and I’m worried about getting COVID because the class I’m about to go into might be flooded with unmasked/unvaccinated kids, which is concerng to me and my mom. If just 1 kid with COVID were to walk into the room, that could make the whole thing a superspreader event! So can you please mandate masks and make it so that kids can only eat outside or offer online school until everyone’s vaccinated? Thank you!
Riley Olver loves school. He’s in Langley Fine Arts School and his mom explained that if she keeps him home over health and safety concerns, he loses his spot in the choice program.
Plus he started online learning last year and is not a fan.
“I don’t exactly like home schooling…,” he said. “I do like regular schooling.”
In addition to playing piano, he does dancing and drawing but his favourite activity is reading.
Dedrie said she is able to work from home, tele-communiting, and able to do her schooling online but is concerned about school exposure. Her husband works in long-term care so must be extra cautious.
Riley is getting ready to return to school.
“He has a collection of N-95 masks ready to go,” Dedrie said. “He is happy to mask up.”
Dedrie said the back to school plan just doesn’t allow her to feel comfortable.
Students may have to mask up in class but what about when they are eating lunch, she noted. It negates most masking.
“It just doesn’t feel like anyone in power is in any way acknowledging that it’s not just a cold,” she said. “There are definitive risks associated with this. I just don’t see any aim to curb spread.”
She’d like to see B.C., which has some of the highest costs of living in the nation, better fund education. It has some of the lowest per-student spending.
Dedrie said she’d also like to see more British Columbians contact politicians to voice concerns about the return to class.
The provincial government has not mandated masks for children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated at this time.
We know students & families are excited to get back to full-time in-person school with friends, extracurriculars like sports and clubs, and mental health supports. Mask rules and other health & safety measures will ensure we have a successful return. https://t.co/yVX6xsJsTp
— Jennifer Whiteside (@JM_Whiteside) August 24, 2021
“We also know we can do this safely, even as the pandemic continues to present challenges,” Whiteside said in the government return to school announcement. “B.C. was one of the few jurisdictions in Canada to keep schools open and safe last year thanks to the monumental efforts of everyone in the education system. The precautions we are announcing today allow students to continue learning in school with safeguards in place, so they have every opportunity to achieve their best.”
The government is requiring masks for all staff, all visitors to schools, and students in Grades 4 through 12 but not kindergarten to Grade 3 childen. Health authorities can introduce additional measures in “individual schools or school districts in instances where community transmission rates are higher.”
A second key facet of the provincial return to school plan is increased ventilation. A total of $87.5 million has been used to improve school ventilation in B.C. schools, including $77.5 million through provincial routine capital funding specifically for HVAC system upgrades or replacements in 2020-21 and 2021-22. In the 2020-21 school year, school districts used $10 million in federal pandemic-specific funding to upgrade more than 45,000 ventilation filters in B.C. schools.
The plan does not include cohorts like last school year and there are no online options for reticent kids, which was allowed at the start of the the 2020-2021 school year.
Despite concerns from people such as Riley and parents, the Education Ministry said the return to class plan will keep students safe, noting that few cases originated within schools. In Fraser Health, 87 per cent of school-associated cases were acquired through community/household transmission, not from the school setting, the ministry noted in its school plan. In Vancouver Coastal Health, that number was 92 per cent. The Fraser Health noted that the Delta variant wasn’t a significant issue at the time of the study (January to June 2021) and it would be monitoring the variant’s evolution.
Delta is now the majority of COVID cases. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said Aug. 23 that “Delta spreads easily between people and may lead to more serious outcomes than other versions of COVID-19 for adults. For children, Delta leads to more cases but the outcomes remain the same as with other variants.”
It’s recommendations to limit variant spread remain vacciantion, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, wearing a well-fitted, three-layer mask, and staying home when sick, as well as avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
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