B.C.'s top doctor not budging on decision to keep kids in class despite surge in COVID-19 cases

The provincial health officer is standing firm in her decision when it comes to keeping kids in B.C. classrooms.

Despite a persistent surge in cases of COVID-19 and dozens of school exposures, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday there are no plans to close the province's schools.

Addressing concerns from parents and teachers, she said, "The structured time and the important structure that school gives to families and communities is really important, and it's a less risky environment."

The current focus, she said, is on prioritizing groups in hotspots like Surrey, to decrease spread and exposure of the novel coronavirus.

In Surrey, where there have been increased exposure events, health officials have made vaccinating teachers a priority. This approach will also be taken in other hotspots in the province, she said.

"We have ongoing daily conversations with the key leadership team around our schools around the province, so we look at, 'What are the measures that need to be in place?'" she said.

"We look at, 'What are the options on a school and school district basis?' My team is part of those discussions. The superintendents, principals, school districts with the teachers… it's a team approach to looking at this."

Henry said increased transmission in communities has largely been when kids were not in school.

"We also heard loud and clear from families across the board, and from many of the educators and school systems, that when we had that shutdown of schools last year, that it impacted negatively across the board," she said.

"So we need to pay attention to that too, and it's finding that balance of keeping things operating safely and making sure that we are supporting children as best we can through what is a really challenging time… The best thing that we can do for this generation of children is to support their learning – their emotional, physical growth – in school."