Cowichan Valley parents are still waiting for an email from the school district warning them of increased exposure risk following Spring Break. Other Vancouver Island schools districts have received the letter from Island Health and the Vancouver Island COVID-19 Rapid Response Team. (Metro Creative photo)

Cowichan parents question sending kids to school after Island Health warning

Notice not distributed to Cowichan School District parents

On the heels of a distressing notice sent out by Island Health, many Cowichan Valley parents joined parents across Vancouver Island spending the evening of Sunday, March 28 frantically texting one another about what to do with their children the following day. It was the first day of school following the two week March break. Do they send their children back to school or not?

The warning shook parents.

“This past few weeks may have been quiet as schools have been heading into or returning from spring break. However, all signs indicate that there will be significant numbers of exposures at schools in the weeks to come,” said the letter, originating from the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, where the Vancouver Island COVID-19 Rapid Response Team is based. It was circulating around on Twitter and Facebook.

“The Vancouver Island region has been experiencing a higher number of coronavirus cases in the past few weeks, and many of these cases have reported higher numbers of social contacts and events while infectious. Accordingly, we are now seeing the number of children with coronavirus on the rise.”

While some parents sent their kids back to school, others were keeping their kids home. Still others wished they’d been told about the news release before they sent their children out the door Monday morning.

“I had no advance warning from the school district so that I could make an informed decision,” said Jennifer Hutcheson. Her child attends school in the Greater Victoria School District and she said she only got the email at just before 8 a.m. Monday morning. Her child was already headed to school by then. “I’m high risk. The School District has just completely let us down. So has the health authority.”

Parents in the Cowichan School District received the letter after 1 p.m. on Monday. By then, several parents had already made their decisions.

“I’m keeping my daughter home as I couldn’t live with myself if she got sick,” said Melissa Chisholm, who said COVID-19’s third wave is here. She had a number of reasons for keeping her child home.

“Spring break has just ended and a lot of people and classmates have traveled. Being a student in elementary they are not required to wear masks. Also a lot of parents don’t have a choice but to send there kids to school as they have jobs to go to. They have to pay the bills,” she said. She’s in a position to keep her child home and feels she should.

She’s got one child not yet in school so she’s able to keep her other child home as well.

“I will see how this week plays out,” Chisholm noted. “But then we have to get through Easter and again another four-day weekend. People will be gathering for Easter festivities and, I’m sure, dinners. I’m unsure what I will do come next week after the holiday but for now I will play it by ear and see how this week unfolds. I’m truly worried.”

The Cowichan School District confirmed that it received the letter from the Vancouver Island COVID-19 Rapid Response Team after 9 p.m. on Sunday, but wanted to run it by the medical health officer to make sure it applied to the Cowichan Valley before sending it out to parents.

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Cowichan Valley Citizen