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Staff shortages caused by Omicron variant could force schools to close temporarily: Coquitlam superintendent

In a letter to parents, School District 43 Patricia Gartland warns that schools may have to close temporarily if there is insufficient staff to provide instruction or supervision
Middle School Student COVID masks
Middle school age children in masks.

Concerns about Omicron and its affect on school staff absenteeism is prompting School District 43 (SD43) to plan for possible "functional closure" of schools.

Schools don't re-open for classroom instruction until Monday, Jan. 10, a delay prompted by concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

However, staff are planning now for how to provide alternate forms of education to students if schools have to close temporarily in the future, according to School district 43 superintendent Patricia Gartland.

In a letter to parents, Gartland warned there may be some closures due to a staff shortage if people become sick or have to isolate due to COVID-19.

"We have seen the impact on society over the holidays of the more transmissible COVID-19 Omicron variant with an increase in cases and the subsequent repercussions on businesses and services due to staffing shortages. We expect there will be staffing challenges within the school district as well, including potential increases in absences due to COVID-19 infections," Garland stated.

"As schools reflect what is happening in the community, there is a possibility that at some point we will experience a 'functional closure' – a situation where there is insufficient staff to provide instruction and appropriate supervision at a particular school or schools resulting in a temporary, and hopefully short-term, closure. The implications of possible functional closures and action plans for continuation of learning are being considered now." 

Last week, the B.C. government delayed the post holiday school re-opening to Jan. 10 to allow time for public health officials to assess the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and give school staff time to implement enhanced safety measures..

SOME STUDENTS BACK IN CLASS

Starting tomorrow (Jan. 4), principals and staff will be back in schools and some students will be in class.

However, only students with diverse learning needs or the children of essential service workers will attend.

Those few students who do go to school the week of Jan. 4-7 won't be receiving instruction. However, they will be supervised, Gartland further stated.

Staff who would normally be teaching students will instead be working on plans for next week's re-start, including preparing for additional safety measures.

"Their primary goal will be to review updated health and safety protocols and plan for school start-up on Monday, January 10," stated Gartland.

For families unable to find care for their children this week, a broadened definition of essential service worker may be applied and parents and guardians are urged to contact their principal.

Families using child care at their local school are encouraged to contact their child care provider directly. The Strong Start program is also not running this week.

However, registration will be open Wednesday for sessions the following week.

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