The Surrey school district is implementing new district-specific orders from Fraser Health, including that masks must be worn “at all times” indoors for students in grades 4 to 12.
In a tweet from district superintendent Jordan Tinney Saturday (March 27), he said the new orders would be implemented immediately.
“As this pandemic continues to evolve and as we learn more about the virus and variants of concern, the health and safety protocols in our schools must evolve too,” Tinney writes in a letter to staff.
He adds the order is specific to the district.
“With the increasing trend in community incidence of COVID-19 in the Surrey region. and the corresponding likelihood of increasing exposures in Surrey schools, our district will begin implementation of an additional measure, mandated by public health for our schools.”
The new measures require all K-12 staff and students in grades 4 to 12 “to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are in their learning groups.”
Exceptions include individuals who are unable to wear face coverings because of psychological, behavioral or health conditions; cognitive or intellectual impairment; or individuals who are unable to put on or remove a face covering without the assistance of another person.
Students and staff also don’t have to wear a mask if they’re actively eating or drinking or while communicating with someone who is hearing impaired.
For K-3, Tinney said, Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer “strongly recommends and encourages the wearing of non-medical mask.”
This comes just two days before staff and students are set to return to schools on Monday (March 29) following a two-week spring break.
And it’s been a busy spring break for the district.
On March 13, the Surrey school district announced new “targeted” COVID-19 health and safety measures as it has “experienced more school-based exposures than any other district in our province.”
Those new measures include limiting adult contact in schools, adjusting maintenance schedules and routines and making sure families vacate school grounds immediately after school. The district is also looking to change elementary start times to accommodate common preparation time for teachers in the morning to “eliminate the need for cross cohort instruction.”
Then this week, the district announced all school-based staff would be vaccinated by April 1, just days after the provincial government announced priority vaccine groups that included K-12 educators.
Staff started receiving their vaccines March 24.
Of the district, the priority areas would be all schools in Panorama-Sullivan, City Centre and Newton-Fleetwood, before moving onto the rest of the district.
Tinney made that announcement the day after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talked about the virus risk in Surrey.
Henry said the number of cases in Surrey has prompted health officials to consider giving vaccine priority to Surrey educators over other teachers in the province.
Surrey is, “by far,” the highest risk area in the province, Henry said.
“We don’t have enough vaccine to do everyone in the school system right now, so we will be prioritizing where the risk is greatest,” Henry said.
– With files from Aaron Hinks