As thousands of children in British Columbia prepare to return to school in the coming days, some parents and educators want to ensure that reducing the risk of COVID-19 remains a key goal.
According to the BC COVID-19 Modeling Group, although the Omicron BA.5 wave peaked in early August, many British Columbians will receive their fourth dosage of COVID-19 vaccination this fall to protect against the risk of another wave. The disease.
When children returned to class in the early days of the epidemic, schools enacted regulations and safety procedures mandating the use of N95 face masks.
This year, parents have expressed alarm over the absence of particular safeguards.
Kenta Martins, vice president of the Vancouver Area Parent Advisory Council, stated, “I want to see masks.” She stated that she is not advocating for masks to be mandated, but rather for the province to be educated on why they should be worn.
She stated that the municipal council would also prefer clear rules from the Health Ministry and epidemiologists about masks, ventilation, and filtration in order to safeguard students and instructors to the greatest extent possible.
In a statement issued on August 25, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Childcare urged parents to keep their children’s vaccines current.
Those with children aged five to eleven are eligible for the booster dosage, while infants and children aged six months to four years can be vaccinated, according to the statement.
About half of British Columbian children aged 5 to 11 have had two doses of the vaccine, according to B. Onnie Henry, the provincial health officer.
Wearing a K95 masks
is “a personal choice that will be supported and honored,” according to the announcement, and the school will provide masks for anyone who want to do so, though it is not required.
Some parents are angry that British Columbia is eliminating the mask regulation and “protective layer” in schools.
Henry defended the policy by stating that immunity had increased and that the virus had mutated to become more transmissible yet cause less severe sickness.
“It’s crucial that we stay current on all the vaccine-preventable diseases our children are receiving,” she said.
“As we enter October, November, and December, I anticipate a surge in new coronavirus this year, and I fear that other respiratory infections, particularly influenza, may reappear after a lengthy absence.”
However, Jennifer Heighton, a Burnaby elementary school teacher and co-founder of the BC Safe Schools Alliance, believes that masks should be a standard requirement for students and school employees.
She stated, “We’re dealing with more transmissible variations, and it may be reinfected repeatedly.”
Anne Ohana, a middle school educator at Surrey, concurs.
“I dislike that schools are viewed as islands, as if transmission between children does not occur or is less likely to occur. None of these are true.”
Since the beginning of the epidemic, the British Columbia government says it has committed more than $166,500,000 in renovating and increasing classroom ventilation. Additionally, the federal government paid $11.9 million “to ensure classrooms have clean air.”
Clint Johnston, president of the BC Teachers Federation, tells Stephen Quinn, host of Early Edition, that many children and teachers have been protected during the past year, and he wants this to continue. The federation is requesting for N95 masks,
The refusal of schools and school districts to supply air filters for classrooms frustrates parents.
He also claims that school ventilation has improved, but not enough.
“Numerous systems in the province do not necessarily meet MERV-13 [hospital-grade air quality] standards. We attempted several workarounds, but believe the work must continue and the system must be improved.”
Minimum efficiency reported value (MERV) is measured on a scale from 1 to 16. The higher the rating, the more effectively it captures particles between 0.3 and 10 microns in size.
In an email, the Health ministry explained that approximately 4% of classrooms, including portable units, lack mechanical ventilation and that the province provided cash to school districts earlier this year to install standalone HEPA filters.
More than 1,750 individual HEPA filtration systems have been acquired for deployment in K-12 schools using 2022-23 monies, according to a survey of 60 school districts conducted during the previous school year.
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The Vancouver School Board responded via email that federal monies were used to purchase new ventilation and heating equipment for portable locations, as well as to renovate “dozens of air supply units in classrooms, gymnasiums, and auditoriums.”
“When applicable, we replace all of our air filters three times per year and convert them to MERV-13 standards. This will continue until the fall of 2023.”
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