Enhanced Safety Measures for K-12 Schools

Hannah Lepine

Enhanced safety measures and $121.2 million in federal fuding are on the way, as the province continues to strengthen health and safety plans in K-12 schools. All middle and secondary students, and K-12 staff will now be required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are with their learning groups.

The only exceptions are when:
-sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom.
-there is a barrier in place.
-they are eating or drinking.

Prior to these changes, masks were required for middle and secondary students and all K-12 staff in high-traffic areas, like hallways and outside classrooms when they could not safely distance from others. 

For elementary students, mnask wearing indoors remains a personal choice. Updated guidelines for the child care sector will be made available in the coming week.

"To make sure schools continue to be as safe as possible for students and staff as the pandemic evolves, we have worked with provincial health and our partners on a continuous review of the guidlines, adapting and responding when needed." said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. "We want students, their families and staff to feel confident with the safety measures in place. That's why we're making these updates."

Guidelines have also been strengthened for physical education and music classes. High-intensity physical activites are to be held outside as much as possible. Shared equipment or items, such as weight machines, treadmills or musical instruments can be used only if they are cleaned between each use. Students using equipment or playing instruments should also be spaced at least two metres apart and masks are to be used when singing. 

To support BC's COVID-19 repsonse for K-12 education, the federal government announced $242.4 million in one-time funding for the 2020-21 school year, with the first half od the investment allocated in September. The second instalment of this funding arrived on January 29,2021. The ministry of Education is allocating $101.1 million to school districts and $7.5 million to independant schools, and is providng school districts an additional $3.5 million to manage COVID-19 exposures in schools. 

To support Indigenous learners, $8.2 million will go towards addressing learning loss and student health, technology for remote learning, education and mental health support, adapting classroom spaces and enhanced cleaning. 

$900,000 will be allocated for six regional rapid response teams, one for each health authority. These teams will continue to improve the speed of school exposure investigations.

One of the most important factors to keeping schools safe is a daily screening for any COVID-19 symptoms. To support daily screening, a new K-12 health-checker app has been developed for students and their families and can be found at https://www.k12dailycheck.gov.bc.ca


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