Princess Margaret

Princess Margaret Secondary School in Penticton is pictured in a panoramic shot from the school's Facebook page.

The first COVID-19 case has finally hit a Penticton high school.

Parents, along with members of the school community, at Princess Margaret Secondary School received a letter tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 1) notifying them of the situation.

"Interior Health has informed the district that a member of the Princess Margaret community has tested positive for COVID-19.  Interior Health has reported that the potential exposure dates are November 26 and 27," Okanagan Skaha School District 67 superintendent Todd Manuel wrote in a statement to The Herald.

Interior Health is continuing to monitor the situation and will implement additional public health measures as needed, including contacting those members of the school community that must self-isolate .

"We continue to partner with Interior Health to follow their direction and are thankful for their leadership and communication. 

"The safety and well-being of our students, families and staff remains our highest priority.  Our schools will continue to implement the strict protocols and procedures we have in place so that children can continue to attend school as safely as possible."

It's unknown if the individual is a student or staff member. Due to privacy reasons, the school board and Interior Health are unable to elaborate.

In his letter to parents, Manuel said the health authority is performing contract tracing and will determine if anyone in the school community was in contact with the person who tested positive.

He asks parents that if contacted by Interior Health, to follow the advice given.

If a parent is not contacted, Interior Health has determined that their child is not at risk.

Earlier this week, Giant's Head Elementary School in Summerland reported its first positive case.

Princess Margaret, located in Penticton's south-end, is home to about 500 students in Grades 9-12.

Okanagan Skaha School Teachers Union president Kevin Epp praised the response by Manuel and senior administrators, but was critical of Interior Health.

"We're pleased that SD67 has worked hard to keep teachers, staff, families and the community informed with regards to Public Health updates in our schools," Epp wrote in an email to The Herald.

 

"What is incredibly disheartening is that it appears the district, our teachers, our kids and the community receive official notice from Interior Health long after information has been shared through social media."

 

The rumour mill, Epp said, was running wild earlier in the day before an official announcement was made by Interior Health.

 

"It was disappointing to hear that in this case, apparently individuals, connected to our schools, reported that they had tested positive to friends but there was hours that went by before official notification was made.  We re all looking to the government to provide leadership during this time, and perhaps, the decades of politicians of every stripe saying that health care and education are their top priorities....well, it appears they should have invested when they said they were going to."

School at Princess Margaret will be opened on Wednesday as usual.

Kelowna, by comparison, has had literally dozens of cases over the past months. At present, there are 10 schools · eight public plus two independent - including the largest, Kelowna Secondary School (KSS) with active cases.

According to B.C.'s chief medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, in about two-thirds of the cases related to schools, the individual infected is an adult.

Even with the vast number of cases in the Central Okanagan, no schools have been shut.

Meanwhile, there are still no exposures in Okanagan Similkameen School District 53 which operates schools in Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos.