The B.C. Teachers Federation is calling for different measures from health officials following reports of eight exposures to the B.1.1.7 variant (also known as the U.K. variant) of COVID-19 in seven schools in Surrey and Delta.
Saturday, Feb. 20, the school district issued notices to three schools where exposures had occurred in late January and early February – A.H.P. Matthew Elementary, Tamanawis Secondary and École Woodward Hill Elementary.
At Ecole Woodward, two classes and more than 20 individuals were directed to stay home and self-isolate. “These individuals are also being advised to get tested. They will be able to return to school following a negative test,” reads a statement issued by Surrey School District Supt. Jordan Tinney.
At Tamanawis and A.H.P. Matthew the district reached out to three members of each school community, again with instructions to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.
Tonight we issue 3 school exposure notices for a COVID variant at James Ardiel, Surrey Traditional and Tamanawis. Thank you to @Fraserhealth and all staff and community for working with us this weekend. #surreybc #sd36learn @CityofSurrey pic.twitter.com/wsMPQ9NgnX
— Jordan Tinney (@jordantinney) February 22, 2021
On Sunday, Tinney posted an update, noting additional exposures at Surrey Traditional Elementary School, where two classes were directed to stay home and self-isolate, and James Ardiel Elementary, where five classes received the same direction.
In addition to three individual exposures noted at Tamanawis on Saturday, Tinney said, one class and seven individuals were also directed to stay home and self-isolate.
The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 may spread more easily, the school district’s statement noted.
“Testing for the variant takes longer than standard COVID-19 testing, which is why we have received the information now.”
In a statement issued Sunday (Feb. 21), BCTF president Teri Mooring said exposures to one of the more infectious variants of COVID-19 in schools in Surrey and Delta is creating concerns among teachers around the province.
“We need the Ministry of Education, the provincial health officer, and health authorities to do more to protect staff, students and the families they all go home to.”
Mooring called for school districts to be given the authority to “go above and beyond the established health and safety guidelines when necessary.”
“When there is a high rate of COVID-19 within a community, a school district should be able to make regional or site-based enhancements to the safety protocols,” she said.
“Those enhancements include mandating masks everywhere in specific schools, including at elementary schools, and making changes to schedules or online learning access to reduce density and increase physical distancing.”
Surrey Teachers Association president Matt Westphal also issued a statement, via Twitter, calling on education minister Jennifer Whiteside to give school districts the “ability to reduce density at hardest-hit schools.”