Opinion: Should this Burnaby school have closed after a COVID-19 case?

Chris Campbell

Reaction has been rolling in since yesterday’s news that a Burnaby teacher had tested positive for COVID-19.

The teacher is believed to work at Burnaby Mountain Secondary School. The Ministry of Education confirmed the COVID-19 case involving a teacher and said the school had not been closed.

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Was that the right move?

Well, those I spoke to from the BMSS community – seemed disappointed the school wasn’t closed. People on our Facebook page seem to disagree with if the school should have been shut.

This was the official explanation from the ministry: “Under the direction of the (provincial health officer) and local health authority, the school has not been closed but all close contacts have been identified and ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. Today (June 25) is the last day of instruction and students won’t return until September. At this time, there are no student-confirmed cases linked to this adult case. And as the provincial health officer has explained, transmission from adult to children and between children is far less common than among adults. We planned for this possibility when we opened schools under PHO guidance, with low student density and strict health and safety standards. Those plans were followed.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry discussed the case on Thursday during a press briefing.

“As you know we anticipated and planned for this potential when we returned to classes in B.C. …We’ve moved quickly when cases are identified and this is the second case identified in a school,” said Henry.

She said the teacher was not exposed to students.

“We know this teacher was exposed through a social interaction…and linked to known cases.

“This is a contact of a contact of a known case,” said Henry.

I’m asking this question because how the ministry handled this case might deter some parents from allowing their kids to return to school in September.

The goal is to have “even more students in class in September, as long as it is safe to do so based on the advice” of Henry, according to the Ministry of Education.

“Much depends on what happens between now and then. We need to plan for contingencies,” said Henry.

So, between now and then, a teacher tested positive and the school was kept open. Why? Yes, there wasn’t much time left in the school year, but wouldn’t erring on the side of caution have been a better decision?

I’m starting to think so.

I’m not saying the ministry was reckless. They had their reasons listed above.

But I’ve read stories about businesses that have instantly shut down after a staff member tested positive, mainly in order to ease the minds of the other people who work there.

I think teachers, staff, children and parents probably deserved to have their minds eased.

September will be an interesting time. I’m really curious how many students return. A lot can happen between now and then.

  • With files from Graeme Wood, Glacier Media

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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