April 16, 2021
Dear Richmond Families,
I hope you and your families are all remaining safe and healthy. As we see the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in the community, the school district remains committed to keeping our schooIs safe and healthy for our students and staff. We continue to be very grateful for the efforts of our families, employees and students who are doing everything possible to stay safe and bend the curve. I would like to update you on several COVID-related items:
As you know, the Ministry of Education issued a revised mask protocol on March 30th requiring students in grades 4-12 to wear masks at all times while indoors at school except under specific and limited circumstances. Initially, districts were informed that this mandate was only in place until April 19th, however it has been made clear by the Ministry of Education that this requirement will continue until further notice. Students in Kindergarten through grade three continue to be encouraged to wear masks while indoors. Please see the Provincial COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings document for details.
COVID-19 Rapid Test Kit Program:
This week, the Richmond School District entered into a partnership with BC Children’s Hospital which will enable schools to provide a COVID-19 ‘swish and gargle’ rapid test kit to parents whose child arrives at school and begins to demonstrate symptoms of COVID-19. When this happens, parents are automatically contacted and asked to pick up their child from school. Parents will be offered the opportunity to take a test kit home with them. Once the test is completed at home, parents can simply drop off the test kit at a local LifeLabs location or at Children’s Hospital. Your child’s school and the Richmond School District will be offering this as a service which is completely optional for parents. We are hopeful that this service will become available towards the end of next week. Parents and children should still monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before students go to school. If children have any symptoms, they should stay home and parents should arrange to have their child tested at a location in the community.
K-12 Employee Vaccination Program:
We are very pleased to let you know that Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has announced that the COVID-19 vaccination program for employees of metro Vancouver school districts located within the VCH health authority will be starting this week. Richmond School District employees will be eligible. VCH has determined that all employees who choose to do so will be vaccinated over the next five weeks. Schools will be prioritized based on the number of current and past COVID-19 exposures. We are very grateful that VCH has prioritized educational staff for vaccination.
During the pandemic, we are paying special attention to air quality in our schools. With the increased prevalence of COVID variants, there has been some recent discussion about this topic. School districts are required to ensure that heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed, operated and maintained as per standards and specifications. The Richmond School District is fully compliant with all requirements. Schools with mechanical ventilation systems have those systems operating at full capacity and we have increased the amount of fresh outside air being drawn into classrooms. Windows in classrooms without mechanical ventilation systems have been opened in order to naturally exchange inside air with outside air with increased heat being supplied to the classroom.
We are getting closer to the end of the school year and questions about which year-end activities will proceed are understandably being asked. Although no firm decisions have been made at this time, I can tell you that the district will continue to adhere to all provincial guidelines and orders, particularly as they relate to gatherings. I would anticipate that decisions will be made in early May regarding most year-end activities, including the format of valedictory ceremonies, and parents will receive specific communication either from the district or your school principal at that time. We are committed, within the guidelines and restrictions we are required to follow, to providing as many opportunities as possible that we know are very important to our students and their families.
Health and Safety Reminders:
Despite the recent increase in the number of cases of COVID-19, the community of Richmond continues to consistently have the lowest number of COVID cases in metro Vancouver. I believe that there is a strong commitment on the part of all members of our community to do everything possible to keep each other safe. We at the Richmond School District share that commitment. The district continues to work closely with, and take direction from, public health officials to ensure our health and safety protocols are current and remain effective. As always, I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone of the health and safety measures we all need to continue to follow in order to keep our schools safe. The BC Centre for Disease Control has also issued a School Sector Update which includes information about COVID-19 as it relates to schools and families.
We continue to encourage everyone to:
- Use the daily health check before arriving at school
- Stay home when feeling ill
- Practice diligent and frequent handwashing
- Practice physical distancing
- Spend time close to home with members of your own household
- Adhere to province-wide restrictions
Please accept my sincere gratitude for your ongoing patience and support of our staff and the district as we all continue to navigate these very challenging times together. We know that this is a very difficult time for our families and for our staff. As the pandemic drags on, our resilience, compassion and patience are being tested at a time when they are needed most. Thank you to everyone in the Richmond School District as we remain united, caring, and kind in order to support every one of our students. We will get there together.
Superintendent of Schools