In terms of getting a handle on COVID-19 exposures in North Okanagan-Shuswap schools, February was looking up for Superintendent Peter Jory.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 2, five days had passed with no new cases of the virus reported within School District 83. According to Interior Health, the most recent reported potential exposures occurred at Carlin Elementary Middle School between Jan. 19 and 22, at Shuswap Middle School on Jan. 19, and at Salmon Arm Secondary (Jackson campus) between Jan. 20 and 22. Those with the virus were directed by Interior Health to self-isolate, and those determined to have come into contact with infected individuals were also required to self-isolate.
Schools recently removed from Interior Health’s potential exposures list include Salmon Arm West Elementary and Bastion Elementary, as well as South Canoe Elementary, which reopened on Feb. 1 after being closed for two weeks.
“There are a number of individual staff and students that are home, including some individuals at South Canoe, but the big groups have returned,” said Jory, explaining South Canoe’s safety plan has since been reviewed and added measures put in place.
“Mostly, they’ll be focusing on traffic flow inside the building and being more careful around how they receive visitors into the site. Those are two areas where there’ll be extra attention. And really, it’s just upping the level of care and vigilance, especially over the next six weeks.”
Asked if the school district has considered a mandatory mask policy such as what B.C. teachers have been calling for, Jory said there have been discussions but, for the time being, the school district will continue to follow the direction of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“It’s unlikely we would push very hard to exceed it, but if that’s opened up or changed in any way, then of course we would be looking at it at that time,” said Jory.
Looking ahead, Jory stressed the importance of continuing the basic preventive measures – wearing a mask, sanitizing hands and maintaining physical distance.
“We need everybody’s help with this inside and outside the school district because we all want our kids in school learning. Because that’s important…,” said Jory, adding it’s incumbent on everyone to make sure everything is being done to keep the entire community safe. “Because if it’s in our community, it gets in our schools, and we don’t want it.”