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Questions continue over slow pace of school COVID notices in North Vancouver

Parents at Upper Lynn Elementary had to find out from each other about two COVID-19 exposures in a Grade 3 class
Cap Elemntary Covid 2 PM web
North Shore mom Coralynn Gehl runs a Facebook page where local parents exchange information on school COVID-19 cases. She says health authorities have been too slow to send out exposures notices.

Parents at another North Vancouver school are questioning how fast health authorities notify parents of possible COVID exposures after a class at Upper Lynn Elementary got word Friday of cases in their classroom – 10 days after they first happened.

The number of classes reporting COVID-19 cases at the school had grown to two Grade 3 classes and one kindergarten class by the end of the weekend.

A letter went out to parents of a Grade 3 class at the school Friday afternoon, informing them of two possible exposures to the virus, Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 4-5.

But that letter only went out after both the parent of a child with COVID and the parent of one close contact in the class began raising the alarm.

Both parents were concerned at the slow pace of notifications from Vancouver Coastal Health, said Coralynn Gehl, a West Vancouver mom who runs a local Facebook page for COVID-19 school exposures and spoke to the parents.

Both were “unhappy at how long it was taking VCH to contact people,” she said.

Gehl said when a child tests positive who’s been in class during a time they were possibly infectious, “a letter should go out right away” to parents of classmates.

“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t tell them,” she said. “It honestly makes no sense,” especially given family gatherings that might have been planned over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“There’s just a concern that the information is not getting out.”

Similar concerns have been raised recently by parents at Capilano Elementary, where no outbreak or cluster of cases has been declared despite multiple COVID cases among five classes at the elementary school. Two of those classes were eventually told to self-isolate by health officials while a third class moved to remote learning at the direction of the school district. All of those students are now back in their classrooms.

On Friday, a letter sent to families by Capilano principal Jeeniece Chand also hinted some recent COVID-19 cases among Capilano students may have been spread by out-of-school activities. "We have learned birthday parties and other social gatherings have been occurring, with learners in attendance who may not have been feeling well," she wrote.

By Monday, both Capilano and Upper Lynn were among seven schools listed on the VCH web page for school cases in the health authority region.

Gehl said she’s asking parents who are concerned about the slow pace of notifications for families to start lobbying for change. “I think anyone who's concerned that it's taken too long, needs to be reaching out to their school board, their superintendent and their MLA,” she said.

The new cases come as rates of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children have recently increased, particularly among children aged five-11.

That prompted the province to announce an expanded mask mandate for students, which will now include primary grades.

Premier John Horgan said this week he’s leaving the decision on whether to require mandatory vaccination for teachers and staff up to individual school districts.