A month into the school year, how are New Westminster schools faring when it comes to COVID-19?
As of Monday, Oct. 4, the New Westminster school district has seen several school exposures, including schools with multiple exposure dates, but none that has been declared a “cluster” or an “outbreak.”
École Qayqayt Elementary School kicked off the school year with the first exposure on Sept. 8. In total, five of School District 40’s 12 schools have recorded exposures so far, as has the independent Urban Academy.
By comparison, in the 2020/21 school year, the Record’s database shows four school exposure reports in the month of September.
Fraser Health started reporting school exposures on Sept. 28, after the province backtracked on its original decision not to provide general notifications for the 2021/22 school year. (The health authority postings list simply dates of exposure and not the number of cases involved, so multiple dates may refer to one case or a number of cases.)
B.C. School COVID Tracker, a parent-run effort to track all school exposures in B.C., has also been keeping a database of school exposures based on cases reported by parents, with reports verified by health authority letters.
Karim Hachlaf, superintendent of the New Westminster school district, said the district is committed to giving parents information about COVID exposures in schools. He provides monthly reports on school exposures at the board’s operations committee meetings.
“We want to continue to ensure transparency and access to information so that parents are informed when an event takes place related to a COVID-19-positive case,” he said at a special board meeting Oct. 1. “That will continue, and we will work hard to continue, again, to do our best with that communication in partnership with Fraser Health.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced during an Oct. 1 briefing that the province will now be providing monthly data reports regarding COVID exposures in schools, with the first such report due in mid-October.
She also stressed that families will receive direct, personal notification in the event that a child is found to be “at risk” of an exposure to COVID.
COVID EXPOSURES IN NEW WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS
Here’s what has transpired in the 2021/22 school year so far in New Westminster:
- École Qayqayt Elementary: Sept. 8 (reported by B.C. School COVID Tracker; predated change to Fraser Health notifications)
- École Qayqayt Elementary: Sept. 20, 21, 22 (reported by B.C. School COVID Tracker; predated change to Fraser Health notifications)
- Urban Academy (independent): Sept. 22, 23, 24 (reported on Fraser Health site Sept. 29)
- Herbert Spencer Elementary: Sept. 21 (reported on Fraser Health site Oct. 1)
- Lord Kelvin Elementary: Sept. 24 (reported on Fraser Health site Sept. 29)
- Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary: Sept. 21, 22, 23, 24 (reported on Fraser Health site Oct. 1; B.C. School COVID Tracker confirms this is at least three separate cases)
- New Westminster Secondary: Sept. 22, 23, 24 (reported on Fraser Health site Oct. 3)
- Lord Kelvin Elementary: Sept. 22, 23, 28 (dates added on Fraser Health site Oct. 3)
- New Westminster Secondary: Sept. 28 (date added on Fraser Health site Oct. 4)
- Urban Academy (independent): Sept. 27, 28 (dates added on Fraser Health site Oct. 1)
WHERE TO FIND OUT ABOUT NEW WESTMINSTER SCHOOL EXPOSURES
New Westminster school exposures will be listed at Fraser Health’s school exposures webpage.
B.C. School COVID Tracker
This parent-run database uses information provided directly by parents and verified by official health authority letters. There's a searchable database online.
This new site, created by New Westminster parent Gabriel Bauman, provides a listing of COVID-19 "hotspots" in B.C. schools, as well as a search function to find out school-specific information. Parents can also sign up for exposure alerts and report exposures. (Note that the listings may include both confirmed and unconfirmed exposures; they are identified as such, with confirmed exposures including documentation.)