BC Teachers Federation President Teri Mooring. (Photo supplied by BC Teachers Federation)
School has been in session for less than a week in BC and already a few cases of COVID-19 have been reported.
High schools in Delta, Surrey, and Castlegar detected cases leading to concerns from the BC Teachers Federation.
President, Teri Mooring would like to see the province take a cue from the School Trustees Association where start times should be staggered.
“Schools should be implementing schedules so that students don’t all show up at the same time so they don’t all get into the same entrance and it could mean that schools should hire additional supervisors to make sure that happens.”
In addition, Mooring would also like to see a more proactive approach from the Ministry of Education.
“And what’s particularly concerning about that (the early cases) is that we know there are not sufficient preventative measures in classrooms right now, there is no physical distancing and no mask policy that covers classrooms.”
“We are also concerned about school ventilation systems and whether they are up to standards and running adequately with the right filters.”
Mooring states they are also hearing the mask policy in place is not being enforced.
Janitorial staff is being faced with a heavier than normal workload leading to some classrooms not being cleaned.
In addition, Mooring is also of the opinion more remote learning options should be offered by the majority of school districts.
“And that would help with classroom density, I am aware that many districts do not provide remote options but there has been a real lack of provincial leadership around what an option like this should look like so that is something we are pursuing.”
However, the Prince George District Teachers Association isn’t surprised by the early case detection.
“The fall will bring with everyone coming back together 100% is going to bring cases into our schools, we have spoken about that and one of our main concerns is with the restart plan put out focused on 100% density in our classrooms,” said Joanne Hapke, President.
Despite this, Hapke is not expecting a full scale shut down again but she is concerned about the province’s revolving guidelines when it comes to school access.
“In July, if you were sick, you can’t go into school but now they are saying if you have this one symptom you can come inside but if you have two symptoms or one symptom and a fever you can’t attend so I have concerns that the goalposts keep changing.”
“How confusing is this that you can choose or select a symptom but you don’t have to get them tested so once the symptoms go away or you are 24 hours from where the symptoms started then they can be sent back.”
As for the first few days of classes in Prince George, Hapke mentioned the feedback from teachers has been eerily quiet.
“The teachers are doing what they do best and that is work within the conditions that have been handed to us.”
According to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the BCCDC website will also link to regional health authorities’ school notification pages, providing the date and type of notification (outbreak, cluster or exposure) for impacted schools starting today (Wednesday).