COVID-19: B.C. education minister assures notices if child exposed

Dorothy S. Bass

Jennifer Whiteside made the comments at a news conference in Langley Thursday at a celebration of the new Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary school in Langley.

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B.C.’s education minister says parents who are worried about schools not sending out exposure notifications this year should know they will be notified if their child has come into contact with someone with COVID-19.


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Jennifer Whiteside made the comments at a news conference in Langley Thursday to highlight a dozen new or updated schools.

Whiteside said she wanted to assure families that health authorities will continue to be vigilant about who has been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

“The health authorities have the contact-tracing ability in place to ensure that process will continue. So we can be very confident that should there be an exposure in school, the family will be notified,” she said.

B.C.’s public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced that schools would be ending the practice of sending out mass emails every time there is a case at a school.

Whiteside said health authorities are taking a public communicable management approach to the disease now in schools, which includes not sending out a mass email each time there is a case in the school.


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Masks will be mandatory for grades 4 to 12 but not for younger children, a policy that has upset the teachers’ union and some parents. Whiteside said schools have worked hard to encourage all students to wear masks, but it will remain discretionary for kindergarten to Grade 3.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic our government made a decision to trust the expertise of our public health officials,” she said. “That is what has informed our health and safety plans.”

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Terri Mooring has said teachers want more safety measures, like a mask mandate for all teachers, staff and students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Mooring said with the highly contagious Delta variant, there is a need for a mask requirement at the start of the year. She said it’s harder to get people to comply mid-year than to begin with the safety measures in place.


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During the news conference, Whiteside said 16 new or improved schools will open this year, including the new Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary in Langley. The school is named after Robins, a retired teacher and member of the Kwantlen First Nation. It also includes nearly 100 new child-care spaces.

An emotional Robins said she’s grateful and overwhelmed to hear how proud people are of her. She also thanked her mother, who was a residential school survivor.

“I’m honoured to see my name up there,” she said.

It is the first time the Langley Board of Education has named a school after a member of the Kwantlen First Nation.

The schools and upgrades are part of a $2.5-billion investment in construction and land purchases, the government said.

— With files from Lisa Cordasco

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