Video Transcript – Darren Lewis, Jan 4, 2022
It had been my wish that this fall and winter would see a gradual return to normal as increasingly we looked at Covid as something that had happened in the past – as opposed to something ongoing.
Sadly, over the past several weeks that wish has met the reality of the Omicron variant. Last week, school leaders were presented with a medical overview of the provincial trending of the variant. Congruent with what we’re hearing in the news, the data pointed to its extreme transmissibility; but also, more hopefully, seemed to support the belief that the Omicron variant results in far fewer serious cases and in particular cases that result in hospitalization.
Despite this potential good news of a milder illness, the concern remains that the sheer magnitude of Omicron’s transmissibility might overwhelm our health systems.
As part of its response to this concern, government announced that the return to school in British Columbia would be phased – with most students not returning until January 10th.
One of the concerns with Omicron is that it will result in a larger number of cases – which would result in more students and staff needing to self-isolate. In addressing this concern, the Ministry has adopted language to talk about two potential types of school closure.
The first is a Health Closure. A health closure is effectively what many schools and classrooms have experienced this fall. Where there has been a significant exposure event, students and staff have been required to self-isolate – resulting in classroom closures.
The second is a Functional Closure. A functional closure would occur where a school is no longer able to provide educational services in a classroom or a school due to a lack of staff. This could be teaching staff or the other staff required to keep the school operating and clean.
Effectively in mandating the delayed start to school the Ministry is asking us to do two things:
The first is to prepare for what they believe is a high likelihood of functional closure in schools. Remember, a functional closure isn’t an outbreak. It just means that a school lacks the required staff to remain open. A functional closure would mean that we would need to pivot all or a portion of the school to online learning.
What might this look like? Well, likely it would happen as a consequence of our being unable to find alternatives – clearly not having students at school is a last resort. If PCS were to reach this stage, we would communicate the situation to the impacted families, take a day to plan, and then transition to online learning. As a school our commitment is that we would make this transition as quickly as possible. With the wisdom of past experience, we know that we’ve been there before and done this exceptionally well.
Our hope, clearly, is that we do not reach a point where we would have to even consider things like functional closures. In attempting to avoid this outcome, we will be reviewing our various safety procedures to ensure we are in compliance with the new guidelines. I’ll be communicating again by week’s end about what steps we have and are taking to do everything we can to ensure an uninterrupted education for all our families. This morning in our Leadership Team meeting we read from a prayer that seemed especially apt for the moment. I’d like to conclude by sharing a portion of that prayer.
We are your people, who are called by you,
We need not be troubled or alarmed.
Indeed, O Lord, let us love now more fearlessly,
remembering that you created us,
and appointed us to live in these very places,
in the midst of these unsettled times.
It is no surprise to you that we are here now,
sharing in this turmoil along with the rest of our society,
for you have called your children to live as salt and light among the nations,
praying and laboring for the flourishing of the communities where we dwell,
acting as agents of your forgiveness, salvation, healing, reconciliation, and hope,
in the very midst of an often-troubled world.
And in these holy vocations you have not left us helpless,
O Lord, because you have not left us at all. Your Spirit remains among us.