Concerns grow over Okanagan students gathering in large numbers on school breaks

The B.C. government has spent more than $45 million to implement safety measures at schools throughout the province to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Floor signage has been put in place to direct one-way foot traffic inside schools and sanitization stations have been put all over school property.

Read more: Here’s how each province is preparing for back-to-school amid coronavirus

Students are also required to wear masks in hallways and other shared spaces.

But some Okanagan residents have been questioning whether all those efforts are being spoiled during school breaks.

Video sent in to Global News shows dozens of students outside of a West Kelowna school gathering in close proximity with a caption reading, “Yup the distancing is really in effect here.”

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In Kelowna Monday afternoon, dozens of students gathered over their lunch hour at a popular hangout spot at the corner of KLO Road and Gordon Drive, with the majority of students apparently not wearing masks and practicing zero social distancing.

Global News has kept the student’s identities anonymous to protect their privacy, but asked some of them if they see a problem with the behaviour.

“Yeah it can seem it’s a problem but I think when you are dealing with students and teenagers, it’s kind of what’s expected,” said one Grade 10 student.

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“Yeah there’s no social distancing happening, which isn’t the best case scenario, but you know, what can you do,” said another student in Grade 12.

Read more: B.C.’s daily health checklist for children going to school shortens to just 7 symptoms

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she empathizes with teenagers and their strong urge for social interaction, but she added now is not the time to gather in large groups.

“Those are not the things that we want happening right now, so parents talk to your children as well,” she said. “This is important for protection for all of us.”

Henry also called on parents to do their part in influencing their children.

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“Help them find other ways of having those social connections without gathering together,” Henry said.

In an email to Global News, the Central Okanagan School District stated:

“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.

“We ask that parents, store owners, and other members of our community support our efforts to reinforce values of safety and responsibility among students.”

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