February 5, 2021
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I’m writing to let you know that yesterday, the Provincial Government announced an update to the Health and Safety guidelines for K-12 schools. Here is a copy of the full government media release for your information. A number of updates to the provincial guidelines were announced by the Minister of Education and the Provincial Health Officer, all of which are explained in the updated provincial guidelines. Here is a summary of the main adjustments to the guidelines for your information:
Starting immediately, all middle and secondary students and all K-12 staff will now be required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, which will now include when they are within their learning groups. They are permitted to take off their masks only when:
- sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom;
- there is a barrier in place; or
- when they are eating or drinking.
For all K-7 students in an elementary school, wearing masks indoors remains a personal choice under these provincial guidelines.
Please note that the Richmond School District continues to encourage the use of masks for all students and staff who are able to wear one, whenever they are indoors. Recently signs were distributed and posted in every school in the district encouraging the use of masks wherever possible. It is recognized that there may be health or other approved personal reasons that some students are unable to wear a mask and in those cases, students will be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other students.
Physical Education Classes:
Provincial guidelines for physical education classes have been strengthened. Physical education and extracurricular exercise and sport activities should be conducted outside whenever possible. Students are to be spread out as far as possible during physical activities. Shared equipment or items, such as weight machines and treadmills, can only be used if they are cleaned between each use. Students using equipment should be spaced at least two metres apart. I know that our physical education teachers have been working very hard to find creative ways for our students to engage in exercise that is safe, and protects everyone involved.
Students in music classes should be spaced apart as far as possible. All musical instruments must be cleaned between each use, according to strict sanitization guidelines. Students playing instruments must be spaced at least two metres apart and masks should be used while singing in secondary music classes. Our music teachers have also done an amazing job of creating opportunities for our students to experience the joys of music in safe and healthy ways, and these new provincial guidelines will make things even safer.
I would like to assure you that we are working quickly to implement these changes as soon as possible. If you have any questions about these updated guidelines, please reach out to your child’s school principal.
Daily Health Check:
All students and staff continue to be required to complete a daily health check before coming to school or work. We are grateful that our students, staff and families have been taking this responsibility so seriously and know that it is absolutely helping to keep our schools safe. To support daily screening, a new provincial K-12 health checker app has been developed for students and their families who would like to use it. The app will allow people to answer simple questions every day and will inform them if they can attend school or if they need to self-isolate. The app can be found at https://www.k12dailycheck.gov.bc.ca.
Keeping Each Other Safe in Richmond:
In Richmond, we have much to be proud of both as a district and as a community. The number of cases per capita of COVID-19 in the community has consistently been lower than most, if not all, other metro Vancouver municipalities. The number of possible exposures in Richmond schools has dropped from 15 per week in mid-November to an average of 1-2 exposures per week in January. We still have not yet had a single documented case of transmission of COVID-19 in any of our schools. I strongly believe that our schools are safe places for students and staff because we are all working so hard to follow the health and safety guidelines at school, at home and in the community. Richmond students, staff and families are demonstrating that they care for each other by sticking to the rules and it is paying off.
As we approach Lunar New Year, Super Bowl Weekend and Family Day long weekend, I want to thank all our students, families and staff for working so hard to stay safe and demonstrate that Richmond truly cares for each other and ourselves. I hope we will all continue to follow the guidelines and stay close to home over the next while so we can continue to ‘bend the curve’ and work towards a return to more normal times as soon as possible.
I know that there continues to be a high level of anxiety for some people in the community. It is so critical that every one of us continues to treat each other with compassion and respect as we all experience the pandemic in different ways. There is a light at the end of the tunnel as we see the vaccine being rolled out, cases in our community continue to decline and sunnier weather beckons around the corner. I would like to thank all our students, families and staff for your efforts not only to keep each other physically safe but to support each other with kindness as we work alongside each other to navigate the remaining months of the school year.
Superintendent of Schools