September 25, 2020

Dear First Nation Schools and Communities,

We hope that everyone is keeping healthy as we move into fall.  In consideration of updated public health guidance for schools, FNESC and FNSA are providing a revised version our First Nation Schools Reopening Considerations and Template for your reference.  Yellow highlighting indicates the key changes.

The following documents are the main references:

Additionally, our resource reflects review and input from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) for the sections on Daily Health Checks, Illness at School, and the new section, Illness at Home.

As mentioned in our September 18th communique, highlights of updates to the BCCDC’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 School Settings are as follows:

  • Further details have been provided about physical distancing, including the goal of reducing close, prolonged face to face interaction within a Learning Group/cohort and maintaining at least 1 to 2 metres when members of different Learning Groups/cohorts are interacting.
  • The BCCDC is advising that all adult visitors to the school should wear a non-medical mask when in the school and unable to practice physical distancing. In general, the BCCDC is placing stronger emphasis on the use of non-medical masks.
  • Students and staff who experience cold/flu symptoms consistent with a previously diagnosed health condition can continue to attend school when they are experiencing these symptoms as normal.
  • Water fountains where a person drinks directly from the spout should be used minimally and only if no other means of water access are available.
  • Updated information on the actions public health will take in the event that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the school community are included in Appendix B: Public Health Actions if a Staff, Student or Other Person Who Has Been in the School is a Confirmed COVID-19 Case.
  • Additional considerations for school meal programs and other food access initiatives are included in Appendix D: Supplementary Guidance for School Meal Programs.

Important updates to the BC Ministry of Education’s Provincial Health Guidelines for K-12 Settings are as follows:

  • Regarding mask requirements for staff, the Ministry has added that “Exceptions will be made for staff who cannot wear masks for medical and/or disability related reasons.”
  • In addition to recommending regular maintenance of school HVAC systems, the Ministry is also recommending that schools with recycled/recirculated air systems upgrade their current filters to a minimum MERV 13 filter or higher if possible, and schools with fresh air intake systems increase their average air exchanges.
  • A Staff Orientation Checklist was added. An editable version from FNESC and FNSA adapted for First Nation schools is available at http://www.fnesc.ca/covid19/orientation-checklist/.  
  • Schools must ensure that visitors are aware of health and safety protocols and requirements prior to entering the school, such as physical distancing and mask requirements (strengthened from “should ensure” in the previous version).

FNESC and FNSA fully respect the authority of individual First Nations to make decisions about school operations in the best interests of their students, schools, and communities, and we further recognize that a number of schools will opt to remain fully or partially closed. First Nations are under no obligation to reopen their schools. 

Our COVID-19 information page has our latest updates and resources.  Recently added items include COVID-19 Protocols for First Nation School Administrators: Management of Illness and Confirmed Cases and the Health and Safety Orientation Checklist for First Nation Schools.

Stay well and please contact us if you have any questions or feedback.