With coronavirus cases on the rise across the province and the school opening only weeks away, B.C. teachers are expressing concern that current safety measures aren’t enough.
“The plan was created by people who have no idea what happens in schools. We have classrooms that are overcrowded with 30 students. Physical distancing is impossible,” Lizanna Foster, a Grade 11 and 12 teacher in Surrey, recently told Global News.
Earlier this month, some parents and teachers protested outside the Vancouver office of Health Minister Adrian Dix. “I would like to have more certainty. I’d like to see smaller class sizes. And especially to have more of a hybrid (in-person/online) model,” one parent said at the time.
The B.C. government has already made several changes to its back-to-school plan for September, including delaying the start date by two days, and mandating masks in common areas for students in middle school and high school.
However, the union representing teachers, the B.C. Federation of Teachers, believes the Province’s measures do not go far enough. They are asking for stricter limits to class sizes and for the mask rules to apply to all students aged 10 and older, including inside the classroom, not just in common areas.
“There isn’t any way to physically distance in a class of 30 students. Even 25 or 28 students, that’s really difficult,” said BCTF president Teri Mooring. “We also think all the adults in the building should be wearing masks, and this should be a simple message: when physical distancing isn’t possible, masks should be worn,” said Mooring.
Some teachers like Foster said the best approach for the school reopening would have been to have students spend some of their week learning at home and some of it at school, which could potentially reduce the number of kids in classrooms.
As Skeena Strong reported, the current B.C. plan calls for students to be at school full-time but will divide them into “learning groups” that will hopefully limit people’s physical interactions and reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading.
The president of B.C. School Trustees Association Stephanie Higginson believes the benefits of a full school reopening outweigh the risks. “We need to get kids in school full time,” she argued.
If you’re uncomfortable sending your kids back to school, there are other alternatives.
In a recent column for Skeena Strong, local Skeena dad Jacob Beaton outlines in detail “three options for schooling your kids in the fall if you’re worried about Covid.”
We think that Mr. Beaton’s column is well worth a read.