A Message from the Superintendent – Important Updates for the Return to School
Below are some important updates for you to read before we head into next week and the return to regular classes. Our goal is to ensure you are as current as possible with Health & Safety as well as any operational changes to our schools. Please find some time to read the email in its entirety.
HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATES
The Provincial Health Office has directed school districts to remind parents of the following information:
All students should be wearing masks if possible on school buses and in classrooms. Masks are required for Kindergarten - Grade 12. Any requests for mask exemptions should be shared with school administration.
Parents, guardians, students and staff are being reminded to wash your hands regularly and perform a Daily Health Check. You can download the K-12 Health Check App HERE. Please stay home if you are not feeling well.
Due to the short incubation period of the Omicron variant (3-5 days), as well as the high transmissibility of the virus, Contact Tracing will no longer be done by schools. The PHO has indicated to us that it is not possible to complete this process in a timely way with the Omicron variant. The PHO and BCCDC are strongly encouraging Self-Management if you have COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. This includes staying home to self-isolate as well as seeking medical attention if you require it. You can find detailed information on this process HERE.
A very informative site on things such as regional vaccination rates and COVID-19 infection rates can be found on the BCCDC COVID Dashboard. You can click on a number of filters that allow you to see specific data for the Saanich Peninsula. We anticipate hearing more from the PHO about school safety protocols in the days and weeks ahead and will provide any information to parents/guardians in a timely fashion.
MON JAN 10TH – SCHOOLS OPEN FOR ALL STUDENTS
Next Monday, all Saanich Schools will be open and school buses will be running on their regular schedules. Thank you for your understanding as we prepared for new conditions in our classrooms, schools and instructional strategies as we returned from the Winter Break. Today was certainly another extraordinary day with the large snow fall last night and early this morning. We anticipate most of the snow to be gone by tomorrow, or pushed to the side, as our crews have been working all day to clear parking lots and school access points.
PLANNING FOR JANUARY
Schools will be contacting parents with particular changes that may be happening at their sites as we adapt to new protocols – this could include things such as limiting school access, program or scheduling changes, and any site-specific health and safety information.
With the arrival of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, we are confronted with some new realities around infection rates and sickness levels to our workforce and student population. Dr. Henry (PHO) recently announced that businesses around the province could see 1/3 of their work force away at any particular time during the month of January as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the population. This kind of absenteeism is not sustainable in our schools and would require us to potentially close a school for a period of time.
Health Closure - A Health Closure of a school is determined by the Island Health Authority. The immediate health issue is the possibility of a high COVID-19 case count in a school. The Saanich School District would receive an Order from Island Health to temporarily close a school. We would then move to a temporary Remote Learning program for all students.
Functional School Closure - A Functional School Closure is determined by the School District when there is insufficient staff to run a school because of illness. The school would be unable to provide the required level of teaching, supervision, or custodial services to ensure the health and safety of the students. While our district has replacement lists for many of our employees, we may not be able to adequately replace workers to ensure sufficient student safety. When this happens, we will be closing the school for a minimum of 1 week (7 calendar days). We anticipate this will allow staff to sufficiently recover from their illness so that in-person learning can resume. During the Functional Closure, the school would transition to a Remote Learning program for all students.
FUNCTIONAL SCHOOL CLOSURE PROTOCOLS
- Communication with parents/guardians that a school will need to be closed for 1 week (7 calendar days)
- If a closure is announced during the school day, an extra bus trip will be made available to transport those students home who take the school bus. Students unable to return home immediately would be held until the end-of-the-day dismissal.
- Students take home all learning materials.
Day 1 – Transition Day
- The school is closed for all students.
- Parents, guardians and/or students will be contacted by the school or teacher about the Remote Learning program.
- Details of the Remote Learning program (minimum of 5 school days)
- The process of borrowing a mobile device if required
Day 2-7 – Remote Learning (Regular School Weekdays)
- The school is closed for all students. Remote Learning instruction begins.
- Hours of instruction will be designed for an age appropriate amount of screen time per day. Primary students can expect approximately 1 hour per day with secondary students receiving longer times because of their multiple courses. Schedules will be determined by teachers and school administration.
- Day 7 - Communication with parents and guardians on the return to in-person learning
Day 8 – Return to In-person Learning
- Anticipation of a return to in-person instruction at school (based on adequate staffing levels)
Teachers, support staff and administrators have been working this past week to develop transition plans for a Remote Learning scenario – building lessons utilizing regular and online resources, updating their remote learning platforms and preparing for the deployment of mobile devices for those families who may need one. Information on mobile device deployment will be provided by your child’s school.
We endeavor to provide families with as much notice as possible about a school closure, however, as absences due to illness may not be known well in advance, our plans for communicating with families will be as follows:
- If a school needs to be closed, the school/district will contact parents via email, preferably the afternoon of the day before the closure.
- If the school closure is determined once the school day has begun, school buses may be sent back to gather those students who can return home safely. Students unable to return home in the middle of the day, will be kept at school and supervised – regular instruction would not be possible. Regular school bus service would return at the end of the day to take any remaining bus students home. School closure would start the following day.
I realize that this new path forward is fraught with uncertainty. However, it is highly likely that our community will see significant effects from Omicron with many businesses and operations being impacted. By providing you with the above information, our hope is that it gives you some time to make alternate plans should we not be able to keep a school open. Dr. Henry has stated that January looks to be the most disadvantaged time, and there is a very good possibility we could be through the worst of the effects of this pandemic by the end of the month.
You can expect communication from your school before we begin classes next week. Please reach out to your school if you have any school-based questions.
One thing that I am actually very confident about is the ongoing support from our community and our shared commitment to do what we can to ensure the safe and nurturing environment that makes Saanich Schools great places. Thank you.
Superintendent & CEO, Saanich Schools