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Staff at Surrey school undergo rapid testing due to COVID-19 variant case

Last Updated Feb 22, 2021 at 10:44 am PST

(Courtesy pacificom.ca)

Surrey's Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary is one of the schools with a potential exposure to the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant

The president of the PAC is lauding the district's transparency, saying the province's communication is too vague

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said all staff were undergoing rapid testing. While all staff who came into contact with the positive case are undergoing rapid testing, not everyone who works at the school is being tested. 

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Nearly 40 people are in self-isolation and rapid testing was done on 35 staff members at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary due to a potential exposure to a COVID-19 variant, according to the president of the Parent Advisory Council.

All staff received negative results Sunday evening.

The school is one of seven for which exposure warnings were issued over the weekend after it was confirmed someone in the school community tested positive for a more transmissible form of the virus.

Cindy Dalglish says parents have been reassured by the prompt action of the district.

“They are trying to do their best to be proactive in this case. We know that the district has jumped as fast as they can with this information,” she says.

“Yesterday I was feeling a lot more stressed about the situation because there were so many questions not yet answered. But after our parent meeting today the superintendent Jordan Tinney was able to answer over 30 questions that our parents had provided to him and I think he was mostly satisfied with the questions and the concerns.”

Key concerns for parents were the number of cases confirmed, as well as how testing will proceed, and who needs to isolate, according to Dalglish. Superintendent Jordan Tinney answered all 30 questions parents had, and the clarity those answers provided helped alleviate some worry. Dalglish says they were told there has only been one confirmed case, all affected staff were being tested Sunday, and siblings of students who came into contact with the case will not have to self-isolate.

However, some anxiety will remain as long as testing is ongoing.

“We know that there are asymptomatic cases out there and I think that the unknown creates a lot more concern and confusion as well. I don’t think we’re out of the woods until we’re out of the woods,” she says.

“I feel better after this meeting with the superintendent, but it doesn’t mean we’re all feeling super comfortable about what’s going on in our school, that’s for sure.”

RELATED: Three Surrey schools warned about exposure to B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19

Dalglish appreciates the clear, consistent communication.

“I am pretty darn happy with our superintendent and his transparency and communication out to the staff and students. I know it’s not been perfect, but overall I think our district is shining in that direction and unfortunately we are also the hardest hit district in the province, so it’s nice to have that calm and transparency I think a lot of people are better off with the information,” she says.

However, she is critical of the province.

“I don’t feel like all the concerns are being addressed adequately. I think the communication is very vague. As someone who wants to know what I’m allowed or not allowed to do — and I feel like I am pretty on top of these things — I still find that there’s confusion out there around what is the mandate, and what is the recommendation.”

Currently, the province requires masks for all staff in schools, and for all students in middle and secondary schools in all indoor areas — though students can remove the masks at their desks. Dalglish would support an expanded mask mandate, with exceptions for medical reasons, which is something teachers’ unions have also been pushing for. But in the meantime, she says parents are doing what they can to increase the number of kids who are masked up.

“We know what the mandate is but we want our school community to do more. If your kindergartener is just fine wearing a mask, let them wear a mask all day — sitting at a desk not sitting at a desk, anywhere that they are let all the kids wear the mask. Most kids have no problem with it, our school community’s compliance around masking has been amazing.”