As the mask mandate within B.C. schools expands to include all grades, Island Health is reporting more COVID-19 exposures at local schools.

Starting today, Oct. 4, all students have to wear a face mask while inside a school building, including at their desks and on buses, after the province extended the requirement on Friday to cover students from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

The decision came after three of B.C.’s largest school boards expanded their mask mandates last week, and provincial officials reviewed the latest data and listened to concerns raised by teachers, parents, and students.

As well, the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) has been advocating for stronger safety measures. When speaking with our newsroom last week, BCTF president, Teri Mooring, just couldn’t wrap her head around certain grades not having to wear masks in school.

Given Kindergarten to Grade 3 students aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, it made “absolutely no sense” to Mooring as to why this group wasn’t required to wear a mask when classes resumed back on Sept. 7.

COVID-19 exposures in schools climb:

Meanwhile, 25 schools currently sit on Island Health’s ‘Potential Exposures in Schools’ list, with Greater Victoria-based School District 61 seeing the most – a total of nine.

Exposures have also been reported at schools in Duncan, Nanaimo, Comox, Campbell River, Sooke, Brentwood Bay, Ladysmith, Port Alberni, and Parksville.

Many of the exposures classify as clusters, which is “two or more confirmed cases within a 14-day period, with evidence of transmission occurring within the school and no other likely source of exposure,” Island Health explains.

It was last Tuesday (Sept. 28) when Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said that health authorities would begin posting ‘potential exposure events’ within schools online again. Mooring told us she was “happy” the notification system was coming back.

READ MORE: BCTF president finds COVID-19 school notifications needed now more than ever

According to Island Health, its staff works directly with staff at schools to identify anyone who may have been exposed, and to carry out case and contact management.

Those identified as cases or close contacts will be instructed to self-isolate directly by Public Health teams, but those not notified by Public Health via phone or letter can continue to attend school, as long as no symptoms arise.

Potential exposures in Island schools (as of Monday afternoon):

School District 61:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Sir James Douglas ElementaryVictoria September 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 2021 (Cluster)
Willows ElementaryVictoria September 24, 2021
George Jay ElementaryVictoria September 21, 22, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)
Tillicum Community SchoolVictoria September 20, 21, 22, 23, 2021 (Cluster)
Cloverdale Traditional ElementaryVictoria September 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 2021 (Cluster)
Quadra ElementaryVictoria September 13, 14, 15, 20, 22, 23, 24, 2021
Torquay ElementaryVictoria September 22, 23, 24, 2021
École MacaulayVictoria September 20, 21, 22, 23, 2021
Gordon Head Middle SchoolVictoria September 22, 23, 24, 2021

 

School District 62:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
École PoirierSooke September 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28 2021 (Cluster)

 

School District 63:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Bayside Middle SchoolBrentwood Bay September 24, 25, 2021
Deep Cove ElementaryNorth Saanich September 20, 22, 2021 (Cluster)

 

School District 68:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Pleasant Valley ElementaryNanaimo September 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 2021 (Cluster)
École North Oyster ElementaryLadysmith September 27, 2021
Cinnabar Valley ElementaryNanaimo September 20, 21, 23, 24, 28, 29, 2021
Departure Bay ElementaryNanaimo September 17, 2021

 

School District 69:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Springwood ElementaryParksville September 27, 2021

 

School District 70:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Ucluelet ElementaryUcluelet September 28, 2021
EJ DunnPort Alberni September 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)

 

School District 71:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Brooklyn ElementaryComox September 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)

 

School District 72:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
École Phoenix Middle SchoolCampbell River September 20, 21, 2021
Campbell River Christian SchoolCampbell River September  15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)

 

School District 79:

School name Dates of Potential Exposure
Tansor ElementaryDuncan September 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)
George Bonner ElementaryMill Bay September 22, 23, 24, 2021
Mt Prevost ElementaryDuncan September 16, 23, 24, 2021 (Cluster)