Further pandemic supports are coming for B.C. students and schools, with 300,000 rapid antigen test kits to be delivered in phases.
The first phase will be rural and remote school districts for use by students with symptoms of COVID-19.
“By making rapid tests available to symptomatic students in rural and remote communities, we are using an additional tool to strengthen the continuity of learning,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “Since the return to class on Jan. 10, teachers and staff in B.C. have worked diligently to ensure classrooms and schools continue to be safe places and spaces for students to learn. I thank them for the tireless work they do each day to give students every opportunity to achieve their best.”
School districts will distribute the five-pack test kits for families of students who reside in rural and remote regions of B.C. This will ensure that communities that are further away from regional testing facilities have access to tests. In the second phase of distribution, tests will be shipped for students aged five to 11 in school districts within the Northern and Interior health authorities.
Test kits for students are in addition to the more than 200,000 test kits shipped in mid-January for symptomatic staff, teachers and administrators. Test kits for staff have started to arrive in communities throughout B.C., with two tests being made available to every kindergarten to Grade 12 employee.
The Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control continue to advise how rapid antigen tests are best used as part of the provincial pandemic response, including if additional tests will be deployed for use in the K-12 sector.
The use of rapid tests builds on existing COVID-19 testing programs in place in communities.
“As schools provide essential support for students’ academic, social, and emotional development, we welcome the supply of rapid antigen tests for use by our students in parts of B.C. with less access to testing facilities, as this will help inform and provide more peace of mind to families,” said Andrea Sinclair, president of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, B.C. has invested $114.5 million to help school districts upgrade ventilation in thousands of classrooms around the province. Additional support is available to implement targeted improvements, with a focus on deploying portable HEPA filtration units in classrooms with no access to mechanical ventilation systems. For example, the Richmond school district (SD 38) has used the additional funding to purchase 293 HEPA filtration units, while Burnaby (SD 41) has used the additional funding to purchase 350 HEPA filtration units.
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