Teachers, students at West Van Secondary warned of possible COVID-19 exposure

Students and teachers at another West Vancouver high school are being warned that a person attending West Vancouver Secondary School has tested positive for COVID-19.

A letter went out to families on Monday from principal Steve Rauth informing parents that a person at the school has tested positive for the virus.

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Health officials are now doing contact tracing to determine if anyone else should self-isolate, according to the letter.

The news of another COVID-19 case in a West Vancouver high school comes the same day as a teacher at Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver filed a WorkSafe claim after contracting COVID-19 – possibly from a student - without being warned that she was potentially a close contact by health authorities.

The teacher and that entire class of Sentinel students are now self-isolating after one of their Grade 12 classmates tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

According to West Vancouver Teachers Association president Renee Willock, the teacher was not told to self-isolate by health authorities doing contact tracing on the student who originally tested positive for the virus. Only students sitting closest to that person were told to stay home.

But two days later, the teacher started to develop symptoms and has since tested positive for the virus, said Willock.

As of Tuesday, the rest of the students in the class of approximately 30 teenagers were also told by health authorities to self-isolate.

Willock said the situation has left teachers concerned that there hasn’t been enough transparency around COVID-19 exposures in schools and worried that contact tracing is failing to inform teachers who may be at risk.

Willock said as far as she’s aware, the West Vancouver teacher’s WorkSafe claim is the first claim connected to COVID-19 in schools as a workplace issue.

Willock acknowledged it may not be possible to prove the teacher caught the virus from the student, but the timeline of when the teacher developed symptoms after being in contact with the student who tested positive suggests that.

“I really think that schools need to be treated more like general society so the rules that are in place for society should be in place for schools,” said Willock. “Why is our workplace so different?”

Teachers and parents were first made aware of a COVID-19 exposure at Sentinel through an email notice on the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, Vancouver Coastal Health added Sentinel to its list of school exposures to the virus.

As of Tuesday, Sentinel remained the only school on the VCH school exposures list, although exposures have been reported at other West Vancouver schools.

Nine students at Collingwood School, a private school in West Vancouver, are also self-isolating this week after being exposed to a student with the virus at the school.

Earlier in September, a group of Grade 9 students and their teachers at Mulgrave private school in West Vancouver spent 14 days in self-Isolation after a student in the group tested positive for COVID-19.

In answer to questions on Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a press conference that all school exposures were supposed to be posted on health authority websites.

According to information posted by health authorities, an “exposure” is defined as when a single person with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 attended school during their infectious period.


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