Comox Valley students call for 'immediate shutdown of schools' after COVID-19 exposures
Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay is pictured. Island Health says a COVID-19 exposure was reported at the school in Mid-February: 2016 (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- Students in the Comox Valley School District have launched an online petition calling for a transition to full online learning after multiple schools reported COVID-19 exposures over the past two weeks.
The petition, launched Sunday, had received more than 1,250 digital signatures as of Tuesday morning.
The description of the petition says that many students do not feel safe after seven schools in the region reported COVID-19 exposures since mid-February.
"It is our request that there is an immediate indefinite shutdown of all the schools within SD71," reads the petition.
"We request that this shutdown is sustained until the exposures within the Comox Valley (and preferably all of Vancouver Island) are under control so we can safely access our right to education."
Petitioners also say that students feel that health guidelines are not being enforced in schools.
"To clarify, this is not to evade assignments, courses or exams; this is not an academic issue," reads the petition. "Many students are currently carrying the burden of putting their entire families at risk because our schools remain open."
On Tuesday, the school district told CTV News that it is aware of the petition and is planning to hold a virtual town hall meeting later this week to address the current trend of COVID-19 cases in the region.
On Thursday, SD71 will be joined by two Island Health medical officers to provide an update on COVID-19 in the school district.
"Medical officers from the Island Health Authority, Dr. Sandra Allison and Dr. Charmaine Enns, will discuss the current situation of the virus in our community, its impact on education and then take questions from meeting participants," reads an announcement from the school district.
The virtual town hall meeting will run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Zoom link to the meeting can be found here.
The school district warns that space during the call will be limited. However, the meeting will be recorded and people will be able to watch the video once the meeting is complete.
The school district adds that it recently held a public survey that asked members of the school community how they felt about the return to in-person learning during the pandemic.
The survey, which closed on Feb. 18, found "an overwhelming positive rate" from the several thousand people who participated in the survey.
SD71 adds that closing schools is not a decision that the school district can make, and can only be ordered by the provincial government.
"The virus is in our community now and schools mirror what happens in a community," the school district said in a statement Tuesday.
"We encourage staff and students and the community to remain vigilant and not let our guard down when following health and safety protocols while in school and when outside of school."