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Parents question lack of information about Capilano COVID cases

A third class at the school has moved to remote learning this week, following two classes previously told to self-isolate
Capilano Elementary Coralynn Gehl
North Shore mom Coralynn Gehl says parents at Capilano Elementary aren't happy with the lack of information coming from Vancouver Coastal Health about COVID cases at their children's school.

North Vancouver parents are continuing to question a Vancouver Coastal Health decision not to declare an outbreak or consider closing Capilano Elementary in the wake of multiple COVID cases now affecting five classes at the school.

Parents are also voicing continued frustration over lack of notification from VCH about COVID cases in the school.

Two classes at the school – a Grade 3 and 5 class – were already told to self-isolate by health authorities.

This week, a third class of Grade 1 students at the school was also switched to remote learning for a two-week period by the school district to accommodate “specific learners and staff” in the class.

“We remain deeply concerned about the continued reports of positive cases connected to Capilano,” wrote principal Jeeniece Chand in a letter to parents.

But she added the school can’t share information about COVID-19 cases unless that’s approved by health officials.

Coralynn Gehl is North Shore mom who runs a Facebook page where parents share information about school COVID cases. She’s heard from numerous Capilano parents who aren’t happy with the lack of information coming from Vancouver Coastal Health.

“This letter speaks to parents who are frustrated and desperate for some information from a health authority that is not giving them much,” she said.

Gehl said most Capilano parents she’s heard from whose kids have tested positive for COVID weren’t considered close contacts of classmates who had tested positive. Parents also aren’t hearing about exposures until days after they happen, she said.

Kate Gillespie is one of those parents.

“I think [health officials] have done an awful job with [information sharing],” she said.

Gillespie’s own daughter tested positive for the virus, although she was never considered a close contact of other cases in her class.

Since then, three other family members – all double vaccinated – subsequently also tested positive, she said.

Gehl says that’s not an uncommon scenario.

“People are very frustrated that they're not getting the information that they want to get, when there's no good reason to not have it,” she said.

Parents at the school have had to turn to group text messages and social media to find out about COVID cases in their children’s classes, she said.

“But that shouldn't be their job, and it shouldn't be my job,” she said.

Many are also questioning why no outbreak has been declared and why the school wasn’t shut earlier.

In an emailed statement, Vancouver Coastal Health declined to say how many COVID cases have been connected to the school, although it confirmed no outbreak has been declared.

Outbreaks are declared only when there is “sustained, uncontrolled, widespread transmission within a school,” according to public health, and extraordinary measures are required.

Currently Capilano is one of only four schools listed on the VCH web page for school cases. That page lists potential exposure dates of Sept. 14-24, but does not identify the school as having a “cluster,” or give information about numbers of impacted classes or cases connected to the school.

The rash of cases at Capilano Elementary comes as rates of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children have significantly increased, particularly among children aged five-11.

That prompted the province to announce an expanded mask mandate for students last week. Masks are now mandatory for all students in K-12. Previously they were only mandatory for students in grades 4 and up.