FILE – Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back-to-school Thursday, September 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

FILE – Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back-to-school Thursday, September 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

BCTF blasts ‘one size fits all’ school COVID plan, calls for transparency from Henry, Dix

Most students returned from the winter holiday break on Jan. 4

On the heels of a series of new outbreaks and exposures announced in schools province-wide, the B.C. teachers’ union has asked the government to increase COVID protection measures in schools.

In a letter sent to staff Monday (Jan. 4), B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said she had met with newly appointed Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside over the winter break to brief her on teachers’ concerns.

“We spoke about the need for more transparent data on COVID-19 in schools, the imperative to improve prevention measures like mask wearing and physical distancing,” Mooring wrote.

“I also raised concerns about the problems with contact tracing and the inconsistent communications coming out from health officials.”

Although public health officials have repeatedly said that the risk of in-school transmission is low, Mooring said that the current strategy doesn’t allow teachers, support staff or parents to assess their own personal risk and safety levels.

“Withholding data has also created a sense of mistrust and a great deal of online speculation that doesn’t help keep anyone safe,” she said. Mooring called for comprehensive public reporting that could include the current number of COVID cases among staff, students and teachers, the number of classes that have had to self-isolate and a list of school closures, the number of in-school transmissions and “clear definitions and rationale for using terms like exposure, cluster, outbreak, and closure.”

The province does not currently release data on the number of school students who have been infected with the virus. However, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control data, 2,228 children under the age of 10 and 4,918 children and teens aged 10 to 19 have contracted COVID so far. There have been a total of 54,201 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. as of Monday afternoon.

READ MORE: B.C. records 2,211 new COVID cases, 45 deaths over New Year’s Eve long weekend

In a 12-page brief prepared for Whiteside, the BCTF brought forward 30 recommendations largely stemming from transparency issues, the need for more protective measures and how to make sure that no students are left behind.

The union asked the province to review the K–12 Restart Plan, introduced this summer, and bring in enhanced health and safety measures upon return from winter and spring breaks.

The BCTF again brought up the issue of masks, which are mandatory only for middle and high school students in “high traffic areas.”

“Proper physical distancing in many classrooms is impossible due to the limitations of space,” the union stated, adding that it recommends “an expanded expectation of mask-wearing in education worksites,” especially after return from breaks.

READ MORE: ‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

“Fundamental measures for protection used in other sectors, such as physical distancing, physical barriers such as plexiglass, and masks to name a few, are not being implemented consistently in the K–12 sector,” the briefing to the education minister stated.

In her letter to staff, Mooring emphasized that a “one size fits all” approach is not working in B.C. Multiple schools in the province, in the Lower Mainland as well as the Okanagan, have been forced to shut down due to staffing issues caused by rampant transmission.

While currently, there are no active school exposures listed on health authority websites, more than a dozen schools had students isolating over winter break. These schools include Osoyoos Secondary School and Penticton Secondary School in the Okanagan, two schools in Terrace in northern B.C. and most recently the news that nearly 50 cases of COVID were reported between five classes at Earl Marriott Secondary in Surrey.

READ MORE: 50 cases of COVID-19 linked to five classes at Earl Marriott Secondary

READ MORE: Health officials to ‘re-look’ at PE protocols after nearly 50 infected at Earl Marriott

“A massive outbreak like this should be the lesson that they finally take seriously,” Mooring wrote of the Surrey school outbreak.

In the briefing for the education minister, the BCTF called for reducing classroom density, especially in harder hit regions.

The BCTF also called for the suspension of the foundations skills assessments and the graduation numeracy and literacy Assessments. The union said that students who were unable to learn in the classroom during the pandemic should be provided with “full-time remote learning by teachers assigned solely to remote learning.” Those students, the union added, should remain enrolled at their current schools.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers’ union calls on Horgan to limit Fraser Health class sizes to 15 students


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

When Langley City resident Dale Attrell, 92, seen here walking in Douglas Park on Saturday, Jan. 10, started a walking club for seniors, it filled up quickly. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Outrunning COVID: a Langley City senior starts a walking club

When Dale Attrell launched a group for older people to go on walks together, it filled up quickly

Langley’s Jim Orlowski, a regular contributor to Through Your Lens, shared this picture of some bird swimming around in Brydon Lagoon. They were spotted while he was walking along the trail in the Nicomekl flood plains. They frequently cross paths with dozens of other walkers and park visitors enjoying the trail on a bright winter day. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Bird friends from Brydon

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

Mark Chandler, outside of his extradition hearing at the Vancouver Supreme Court. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley condo builder’s fraud sentencing in U.S. delayed due to COVID-19

Mark Chandler’s own lawyer contracted COVID-19 in December

People have noticed pine siskins dying in the area, part of a trend of larger numbers of the finch flocking to the area about every five years. The larger numbers result in crowding and increased spread of salmonella. (Wikipedia photo)
Langley birdwatchers seeing dead finch species in higher numbers

Pine siskins are in the area in larger numbers. They are prone to salmonella which is fatal for them

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Most Read