COVID-19 outbreak prompts school closure in Chilliwack
Promontory Heights Elementary shifts to online learning after 20 students, staff test positive
An elementary school in Chilliwack, B.C., is shifting to online classes effective immediately as a result of an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff and students.
An announcement on Promontory Heights Elementary School's website Wednesday said the school will be temporarily closed and in-person learning will be paused.
Fraser Health has since officially declared an outbreak at the school. A statement said 20 students and staff have tested positive for the illness.
"Promontory Heights Elementary School will be closed to in-person instruction while Fraser Health undertakes case and contact management," an emailed statement read.
The school's medical health officer said cases have risen over the past 10 days. In-person learning is expected to return on Monday, Oct. 4.
The superintendent of the Chilliwack School District, Rohan Arul-pragasam, declined an interview on Thursday. But in a statement, he said he believes Chilliwack schools are safe.
"It is key to note that COVID-19 cases in our schools directly reflect community transmissions in Chilliwack, and we must continue to be vigilant as a larger community," he said.
He said it is important that the public follows provincial health guidelines, including getting vaccinations.
"These steps will ensure that we work together to keep our vulnerable populations, including our children, safe," said Arul-pragasam.
Fraser Health said "it is critically important" for people living in the Fraser Health region to get tested as soon as they have COVID-19-like symptoms, even if they're mild ones.
"Please don't wait," the statement said.
On Wednesday, 214 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Fraser Health region, where there are now 1,734 active cases of the virus.
Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, told CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday that she supports the decision to close the school and switch to online learning.
"I'm really proud of the way the Chilliwack School District has responded so quickly," she said.
The outbreak declaration comes just days after B.C. officials reversed their previous decision not to notify parents of COVID-19 exposures in schools.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday feedback from parents and teachers made it clear they wanted to be informed about transmission of the virus. A new plan is expected to be in place by the end of this week.
"We have asked our team to get together right now to make sure that we can notify schools in a timely, less intrusive and more sustainable way and that parents will have access to that information rapidly," she said during a Tuesday press briefing.
Parents and educators are still waiting to learn what the province's new notification system will be.
"We're not sure what Dr. Bonnie Henry means when she says less intrusive and more sustainable," said Gord Lau, chair of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council.
Higginson is also in the dark on the details.
"We do not know what it's going to look like yet," she said. "We look forward to understanding more about it."
With files from The Early Edition