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COVID-19 spike forces shut down of Nakusp Elementary

John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
By John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
May 9th, 2021

School administrators in Nakusp have shut down the community’s elementary school from May 4 to 16 after some cases of COVID-19 in the school community left most of the staff and students unable to attend classes. A number of staff and students have to self-isolate for 14 days.

“In order to support the Nakusp Elementary School (NES) staff and students who are currently self-isolating, School District 10 has decided to close the school for two weeks due to staffing constraints,” said a release Monday (May 3) written by Interior Health (IH).

“In-person classes will resume on May 17.”

But IH and SD 10 were at pains to say they were not declaring an “outbreak” at the school.

“Please note, that this is a functional school closure and has not been declared a COVID-19 school outbreak,” said the release. “Online learning will take place during this closure period with NES teachers reaching out to parents and students in the next few days.”

SD 10 Superintendent Terry Taylor said with only 27 of 157 students showing up for class Monday, and more than 75% of staff and students under orders to self-isolate, keeping the school open became unmanageable.

“We’ve been cobbling it together, trying to make it work,” Taylor told the Valley Voice. “We know how important school is to our families. We’ve been following every one of the protocols and making it super-safe, but this has presented us with a – what’s the COVID-word? – ‘unprecedented’ situation.”

The elementary school is not the only impacted institution in town. The high school has seen a 50% drop in attendance even though no cases have been reported there. Taylor says children in unaffected schools should continue to attend class.

“The encouragement would be our schools are safe – that’s true, the provincial and medical health officers in our area have said that over and over again. And we will ensure the deep cleaning is done, the infection control is done – that’s already underway. But schools are safe places, and are always a reflection of community.”

The school closure was a reminder of how difficult it is to contain the coronavirus even as hundreds of locals received their COVID-19 vaccinations in the last week and provincial case numbers slowly decline. 

“Actually, just like the rest of our community, we didn’t think it was going to happen here,” says Taylor. “We know it’s all around us, and so on, after only three cases for 13 months in our health region, we thought we were going to dodge this one.”

West Kootenay schools affected

Nakusp wasn’t alone with the school-connected incidents of COVID. A second SD 10 school, Burton Elementary, also had an exposure earlier in April, and so did schools in Kaslo (JV Humphries), Nelson (Rosemont Elementary), Crescent Valley (Brent Kennedy), Castlegar (Stanley Humphries Secondary), and Trail (JL Crowe Secondary). 

The Nakusp exposures prompted Interior Health to set up a mobile testing clinic at the Arrow Lakes Hospital for anyone who thought they may have caught the virus, and is doing contact tracing in the community.

After dealing with the week-long crisis, Taylor said she’s confident that the district will endure.

“We’ll get through this; we always do,” she said. “Our staff has been absolutely amazing in following the protocols, in ensuring the children have rich and thoughtful learning experiences. As the numbers [of students attending school] have been shrinking at the elementary and high schools, we’re really wanting to come through this. We’re in this together and that’s what small communities are about.” 

Nakusp Elementary is a K-7 school nestled in the village of Nakusp on the beautiful Arrow Lake.

The school has approximately 170 students in Kindergarten through Grade 7, along with a vibrant Strong Start program for early learners and their families.

Categories: GeneralHealth

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