Boundary schools have reported spikes in single-day absences due to COVID-19 symptoms to Interior Health four times over the last three weeks, according to School District 51.
The district’s 11 schools report the occurrence of COVID symptoms whenever they account for absences of 10 per cent or more of a student population on any day, Superintendent Ken Minette said Tuesday, Oct. 27.
There have been no COVID cases in district schools, he confirmed.
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control recommends parents keep their children home from school if they have fever, chills, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a persistent cough. Students can return to school after their symptoms have significantly improved and if they don’t have a fever or cough.
Increased absences show “parents are taking this very seriously,” Minette said. “I want people to have trust in the school district, that we’re doing everything we can to keep kids as safe as possible during the pandemic.”
Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS) principal Brian Foy attributed higher than normal absences in his student body to a broader cultural shift.
“Traditionally, there was a bit of an honour to warring through it,” when staff and students felt sick, he said.
“Now, the challenge is to step back. The warrior part is to not come to school and to stay caught up [with studies] from home as best you can.”
“Part of this new protocol involves our relationship with Interior Health in communicating to them how our student body is doing. Where parents would just say, ‘our child is sick today,’ Interior Health now wants to know what they’re sick with.”
Student absences are up 20 per cent at GFSS since September, which Foy attributed to the fall cold and flu season, as well as increased vigilance by parents and staff. The extra precautions are at the heart of a “new, collective responsibility” amid the pandemic, he said.
Parents are asked to set up health assessments through the province’s health line by calling 811 if their children have more than one COVID symptom, if they have a fever, or if they have been in contact with anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19.