VICTORIA — Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says six new rapid response teams will help schools in B.C. identify gaps in COVID-19 safety plans to help reduce exposure risk.
The government says in a statement the teams will work with staff at schools, school districts and health authorities to review significant exposures to the virus.
They will review school or district safety plans and policies, assist in their implementation and make recommendations for improvements when needed.
The teams will also help schools and districts with communication plans.
The provincial government is spending $900,000 in federal funding to support one team for each health authority and a separate team to help independent schools.
Whiteside says gaps in safety plans and their implementation in some cases have been identified through reviews in cases of exposure, including classroom configuration problems and the sharing of supplies.
"We know that when our safety plans in schools are in place and being adhered to and we don't have any gaps in those safety plans, we know that is when our schools are safest," she said on Tuesday.
Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, said the rapid response teams should be helpful, especially with COVID-19 variants identified now in three different school districts.
However, she said the union still wants to see more action to prevent exposures in the first place, including strict mask policy and reduced classroom density to allow for more physical distancing.
"This does not replace preventative measures," she said.
Funding for the teams was first announced Feb. 4.
A lead school district has been selected for each health region and in Fraser Health, where outbreaks have been concentrated, the Education Ministry says there has also been additional support.
Lead school districts include Surrey for the Fraser Health region, Nanaimo-Ladysmith for Island Health, Central Okanagan for Interior Health, Peace River North for Northern Health and Vancouver for Vancouver Coastal Health.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.