VICTORIA -- Vancouver Island health authorities are warning that “significant numbers” of COVID-19 exposures in classrooms are likely in the weeks ahead as students head back to class after spring break.

The island’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Team issued the warning in a letter to school districts on Sunday, saying, “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.”

The letter goes on to say, “accordingly, we are now seeing the number of children with coronavirus on the rise.”

The letter asks parents to keep children away from school if they have any coronavirus-like symptoms and to get tested, especially if the child has been travelling over the spring break.

“This past few weeks may have been quiet as schools have been heading into or returning from spring break,” says the letter, signed by four members of the rapid response team. “However, all signs indicate that there will be significant numbers of exposures at schools in the weeks to come.”

The health officials warn that children will often exhibit only mild COVID-19 symptoms, which may get overlooked.

“We know that schools offer very significant health and wellness benefits, physically, socially, and emotionally,” the team wrote. “We are working hard to ensure school environments remain COVID safe, to keep Island children in school. Thank you for doing your part to ensure our school community has fewer school exposures by having your child tested if newly symptomatic, and by limiting your social contacts.”

Outside Sangster Elementary School in Colwood on Monday, students told CTV News they were happy to be back in class after the break.

Kids were eager to see their friends again, and parents said the social benefits of keeping their children in school outweighed the risks of contracting COVID-19.

Parents said they felt the schools and health officials had done a good job of keeping children safe in classrooms and said that if public health orders change, then they will change their behaviour along with them.

The rapid response team advises parents of symptomatic children to get them tested by calling 1-844-901-8442 between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.