VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Vancouver School Board trustee is calling for a review of school district policies after hearing from parents concerned about the availability of soap in school bathrooms in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jennifer Reddy said she has spoken to some 25 people in the last day who are concerned about the issue.
She said she has asked district staff to ensure it’s providing needed soap, toilet paper, hot water, paper towels and hand dryers at all schools.
I have asked for an immediate review of the washroom provisions mentioned at all school sites. Thank you for taking the time to contact me, I share your value & concern for student hygiene including: access to soap, toilet paper, paper towel/hand dryers, and warm water.
— JenniferReddy (@reddyforchange) March 3, 2020
Hygiene is always important, but especially so as the novel coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, Reddy said.
“I think people are hyper aware of it, which is great and something we should be aware of all of the time, not just in reaction to a situation,” she said.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday B.C. had diagnosed its ninth case of COVID-19 – a man in his 50s who recently returned from Iran.
Reddy said she has yet to hear back from district staff since requesting the review.
Jaclyn Ferreira, who has a daughter in Grade 4 at a Vancouver elementary school, said she was among the parents who reached out to Reddy with concerns.
She said she brought up the topic of handwashing with her daughter, who told her there was not only soap missing from one bathroom but no dispensers altogether.
We were just discussing hand washing, and our kid informed us that not only is there no soap in her @VSB39 school bathroom, THERE ARE NO DISPENSERS. Come on! Way to be proactive there, team. @Rob_Fleming @jjhorgan cc. @pattibacchus
— Jaclyn Ferreira (@jaclynmacrae) March 3, 2020
Ferreira, who did not want to specify which East Vancouver school her daughter attends due to privacy concerns, said she posted online about the issue and heard back from parents at several other schools who also reported lacking soap availability.
“It’s definitely system-wide, it’s not just our school and I want to make sure that’s clear,” she said.
The spread of the coronavirus only puts a finer point on the need to fix the problem, Ferreira said.
“Kids are kind of dirty and unaware of their bodily functions and so they need to wash their hands,” she said. “And when you have that many kids in a building, it just seems like a hot spot for germs and things to spread. So not providing them the opportunity to at least try to stop some of the spread seems like kind of a backwards step.”
A school district spokesperson said there is no system wide issue.
“It would be very unusual for any school not to have soap dispensers nor ones that are empty,” Patricia MacNeil said in an email, adding district staff check all washrooms and refill dispensers when needed.