With the winter break in the rear view, School District 73 students have returned to school riding the wake of a swell in COVID-19 cases across the province, leaving teachers anxious as exposures emerge and communication is clarified.
With six exposures in five schools, board chair Rhonda Kershaw said SD73 administrators have learned that communication is key, now more than ever.
Kershaw said attendance has shown people are confident in the district’s plan and how it is adhering to public health guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a 95 per cent return, which was one of the higher returns in the province, and it has stayed fairly consistent,” she said.
Kershaw said there have been dips in attendance following exposure events, but noted it has always bounced back up.
Interim superintendent Terry Sullivan said that, on average, school attendance in the province has been about 85 per cent.
As for the exposures, Sullivan said in context, the district has seen a relatively low number of exposures, but still thinks six is too many.
The first exposure was at NorKam secondary on Nov. 18, followed by four others in December.
Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association president Laurel Macpherson said teachers are anxious, especially as case counts rise in the Interior Health region and COVID-19 creeps into schools.
But if there are problems in how schools are operating within SD73, it’s not because of what is happening locally, Macpherson said.
“I have to say we’ve worked very well with the district,” she said, noting the issues teachers are facing are not specifically local ones.
“Here in Kamloops, they do what they’re being told to do. If they’re told to do something, they pretty much do it,” she said, referring to public health guidelines put in place by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
But Macpherson said the workload on teachers has only increased, contributing to the anxiety caused by rising case counts.
“You have to implement all of the protocols, you have to teach the curriculum, you have to do standardized testing,” she said.
“You have to do all of these things where we’re pretending it’s business as usual — and it’s not. It’s much more work.”
With vaccines now on the horizon, Macpherson said teachers don’t yet know where they stand in the line to get poked.
Sullivan, meanwhile, said he hopes people don’t become complacent in the interim.
“My concern is that we somehow feel, because vaccines are coming, we can all relax our vigilance. We can’t do that. We have to continue to be vigilant and do what we’ve been doing up until now,” he said.