Schools in Burnaby couldn’t get through the first week back from the winter break with a COVID-19 exposure.
Fraser Health has reported an exposure on Jan. 4 at Byrne Creek secondary.
The news came on the same day that the president of Burnaby’s teachers' union added his voice to a chorus of others in the Fraser Health region calling on public health officials to be more transparent and make schools safer against COVID-19.
In a joint statement sent out Thursday morning, 12 BC Teachers’ Federation local presidents said many schools in the region are “not safe enough and the status quo is unacceptable.”
Representing teachers from Burnaby to Boston Bar, they called on Fraser Health officials to improve contact tracing, reduce density in classrooms, make masks mandatory in all indoor spaces, provide clarity around how and why outbreaks are declared in schools, and make sure school staff are “appropriately prioritized” to receive coronavirus vaccinations.
The letter said mask use in the region’s schools is inconsistent; cohorts easily break down; and there is little room for physical distancing, especially in schools that are full or over capacity.
“As a result, the layers of protection do not exist in many of our schools like they do in most other indoor public spaces,” stated the letter.
It gave a number of examples of problems at schools.
Among them, it said there had been a “likely outbreak” at a Burnaby elementary school where a number of staff and students contracted COVID-19 in the same week, but no outbreak was declared and no classes or cohorts got isolation letters.
“This is around clear communication and more transparency,” Burnaby Teachers’ Association president Daniel Tetrault said in an interview with the NOW. “When a number of staff and students contract COVID-19 within a few days at the same school, it sets off alarm bells.”
- With additional reporting by Cornelia Naylor