Editor's note: this story has been updated since first posting to reflect a new exposure notice Nov. 20
More North Shore families have received notices this week of COVID-19 exposures at their children’s schools.
Families of Grade 12 students at both Sutherland and Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver were informed a COVID-19 exposure happened Nov. 16.
At Cove Cliff Elementary school a Grade 6 class was exposed to the virus Nov. 14.
At Collingwood’s Morven campus a Grade 9 student tested positive and teens in learning group “A” at the school have been advised to self-monitor.
Close contacts are being notified directly by health officials in all three cases.
In the case of Collingwood, the exposure notice came the same day this week as a new mask policy at the private school came into effect, requiring students to wear masks at all times except when eating.
Collingwood’s policy requires students to wear masks in more circumstances than in public schools.
In public schools, high school students are required to wear masks in indoor common areas like hallways but not when they are in classes with their own cohort of other students.
On Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, made masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces and retail stores in the province.
Henry said masks are not being required in classrooms because schools are a controlled environment, not a public setting. She added while there have been lots of exposures in schools – including exposures from adults who have tested positive – transmission of the virus to others within schools remains low.
“Schools are not public, open spaces,” said Henry. “You cannot go walk into a school. We have layers of measures of protection in place in schools. And like I wouldn't wear a mask sitting at my office, we don't expect children to wear masks sitting at their desks all day long.”
Last weekend, families at two West Vancouver schools got notices of possible COVID-19 exposures.
Students in about half of the classes at Irwin Park Elementary School were notified that their children were exposed to a person with the virus Nov. 9 and 10. Parents of a Grade 6 band class at West Vancouver’s Ecole Pauline Johnson also received a notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure on Nov. 9.
All of those notices appeared to have stemmed from exposure to one teacher who taught a number of different classes.
At Tuesday’s regular West Vancouver public school board meeting, parent Coralynn Gehl, who also runs a Facebook page informing parents about local COVID-19 exposures in schools, asked why masks can’t be more encouraged among elementary school students.
School board chair Carolyn Broady said while parents can tell their kids to wear masks, “we do not have the ability to mandate masks” because of direction from the provincial health officer to public schools.