While students seem to be “overwhelmingly” following the masks protocols in high-traffic areas in schools, there are concerns about what’s happening outside of the buildings.
Since the school year started, the district has had two surveys for students in grades 10 to 12.
The first had about 2,600 respondents, according to Surrey school district Superintendent Jordan Tinney and through that came the follow-up survey that focused on the challenges of managing health and safety protocols.
Then on Thursday (Nov. 26), the district – Tinney included – met online with some of the students to further discuss the survey and the concerns.
“This is us trying to keep student leadership alive during a pandemic, and in its own way, we’re able to reach thousands of students online.”
One of those students was Tanvi Pandhi, a Grade 12 student at Fleetwood Park Secondary School. Based on school exposure notices from the district and Fraser Health, the school has had five COVID-19 exposure notices sent out by Nov. 25.
She said it was the beginning of bridging that “communication gap” between students and administration staff, who are helping to make some of the policies.
“It’s important for them to know our opinion as well because they aren’t the ones coming into schools.”
Asked what some of her biggest concerns with health and safety protocols, Tanvi said mask wearing.
“You can’t always social distance, especially in a building with 1,500 students. It’s so hard to social distance,” she explained. “For me, the most important thing during the pandemic, is to wear a mask at all time.”
When Tanvi’s at school, she said most students follow the rules and protocols.
“In school it happens. They’re sanitizing, they’re social distancing, they’re wearing a mask. But as soon as they’re out of the building, it’s like cohorts are mix and matching, no one’s wearing a mask.”
But she said it’s not just the students’ fault, adding that she’s seen some adults not following rules as well.
Tanvi said that if people were more proactive, and following the rules, “this would probably not be as bad.”
“How far they can take it before they’re going to shut down every school. I feel, sooner or later, they are going to move online unless we start following the rules and we start doing our part. And since we’re clearly not, schools are shutting down, the rates of the cases are going higher and higher.”
Tinney told the Now-Leader the district is trying to remind students and the public that “masks are actually required in the hallways and anytime you’re outside of your cohort.”
“In the survey, we asked that explicitly, ‘Do you wear a mask when you’re in the hall?’” said Tinney, adding that it “overwhelmingly” looks like students are following that rule.
“But their number one piece around the challenge with following the safety protocols, is maintaining physical distance outside their cohort,” he noted.
“Now what isn’t in the survey, and we won’t know, is that a choice? Are they hanging out with their friends and they choose not to physically distance or are they saying schools are crowded?”
For Emma Allen, a Grade 11 student at Earl Marriott Secondary, she said getting to take part in the survey was helpful “because I felt like my voice was being heard.”
“It felt nice to see kids from all around the district feeling the way I felt, and getting to communicate that with people who can actually do something about it was really, really cool.”
She said at Earl Marriott, which has had five exposure notices sent out by Nov. 22, she feels they’re handling the pandemic well, and “within the classrooms we’re feeling safe.”
“But it’s chaotic,” she said, referring to the quarter system of two classes for 10 weeks at a time.
Emma said the classes are two hours, and that move into “self-directed” learning for online can be “tricky” for some, including herself.
Asked how she felt about coming back to school in the fall, Emma said she had “some anxiety.”
“I was very nervous, obviously, going to school in a global pandemic is exactly what it sounds like. However, with most of the students wearing masks majority of the time and when we can’t, we’re trying to social distance,” she said.
“I had some anxiety, however being in class has eased it a little. But then every time you get a notification that someone at your school has COVID, you’re a little bit stressed out about it.”
Emma said “about 90 per cent” of sudents are wearing masks, but she would “prefer it if it was mandatory in classrooms.”
“We’re doing our best to keep each other safe, and we just want everyone to make smart choices. If we’re doing our part, we want everyone to do their part so we can just go back to some form of normal.”