Videos circulated online last week of students gathering outside the school grounds at lunchtime in Kelowna without following social distancing protocols.
The videos garnered some media attention but left Interior Health and Central Okanagan Public Schools with no definitive ideas on how to address the problem.
Kevin Kaardal, superintendent/CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, issued a statement asking parents, store owners and other members of the community to support the school district’s efforts to reinforce values of safety and responsibility among students.
“Our staff at secondary schools work hard to organize and supervise students as they arrive, take breaks, and leave campus. We also continue to educate students on responsible behaviour during the pandemic and being community contributors at all times,” said the statement.
“Our efforts to reduce risk at schools are greatly impacted by community members’ behaviour – students and their families need to understand that personal responsibility extends beyond school grounds.”
Interior Health declined to comment, pointing to provincial health director Dr. Bonnie Henry’s response to that question during her press conference on Monday (Sept. 28).
Asked about students gathering off school sites and outside of their cohorts at convenience stores or local restaurants, Henry said teenagers are presented with challenges with how schools are adjusting to the COVID-19 health safety requirements.
“I know it’s very different, particularly for teenagers, and that strong urge to be socially connected at that time in our lives is a very challenging one to overcome,” Henry said.
She students gathering in groups raise concerns about a contagious disease like COVID being brought home and infecting family members.
“Those are important things and I know young people believe that as well. So now’s the time, we’re getting over the novelty of how this going to work, to put in place those rituals, those procedures so that we can safely go back to school, continue the learning and the connection that we have and not have those potential exposure events outside of the school setting,” she said.
“So parents and young people, let’s support each other and stay small.”