LETTER: Parent says district should close Chilliwack schools now

‘COVID-19 is a hungry fire and students are a forest of summer-dried trees packed closely together’

Open letter to Chilliwack School District Superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam:

As a parent who has just received the Sept. 30, 2020 “Early Exposure Communication Letter to Parents of Chilliwack Secondary Students” I am very concerned about what comes next.

Right now I am confident that the infected persons from the “school community” at CSS, and the other schools in our district, are self-isolating and contact tracing is happening through Fraser Health. I am also confident that school district 33 (SD33) is following all of the announced practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

• READ MORE: Confirmed COVID-19 case at Chilliwack Secondary School

My concern is in regards to elements that cannot be controlled or channelled by policy or protocol. I have observed (while dropping off and picking up my child at the CSS campus) very little social distancing between students outside the school building (but still on school grounds) at lunch and the beginning and end of the day. All the hugging and close intermingling without masks I see during my brief visits appears to be ideal conditions for spreading COVID-19.

This situation is outside the school district’s ability to control, obviously, and the students are doing their best to retain as much normalcy as is possible during this unprecedented pandemic. I am not contacting you to assign blame to any leadership, staff or students of SD33. We are all doing what is within our power during this time of crisis.

“‘Power,” however, is the concept that concerns me at this juncture. As thinking human beings we know that our powers can only extend so far when facing a global, viral pandemic. We exist perpetually at nature’s mercy and it cannot be reasoned with. Although we have grown competent at taming the powers of nature they are never truly domesticated. Nature will always have an edge regardless of our actions.

There is one thing in our power that we can do considering that COVID-19 has now appeared in the schools of SD33 – that is the power to close them until this crisis is resolved.

If we sit down to do the ‘rithmatic, we run head first into the notion of exponential growth – the basic rule of mathematics that a continued doubling of numbers turns single digits into hundreds in only a few short steps. Viruses work on the same principle – infect as many hosts as quickly as possible to get those numbers rising fast. COVID-19 is a hungry fire and the students and staff of SD33 are a forest of summer-dried trees packed closely together.

COVID-19 is as big and as bad as they come and it is determined to find new hosts. If given the opportunity to infect someone new, it will. That is a proven, scientific fact. Aside from the chances of dying from COVID-19 the chronic medical effects for those who survive a symptomatic infection can be chronic and life altering. COVID-19 casts a long shadow to those who have battled it first hand. If it is within our power to prevent this we are obligated to act.

What we must do, until we have a functioning vaccine, is to stay apart, wash our hands and wear a mask.

Superintendent Arul-pragasam, please close the schools before COVID-19 infects dozens or hundreds of students and staff within SD33. Those infections would soon be brought home to infect our broader community. If that were to happen those numbers might race up to four digits and beyond.

Proven infections in the single digits is the time to act. Once we rise to double and triple digits there will be now way to subtract the damage done.

We are all self-aware enough to acknowledge our limitations in this fight. We must take the single effective course of action that will save lives in this new type of world war.

Please close the schools in SD33 now.

Chris Woods


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