SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Many teachers are expressing health and safety concerns as some students return to in-class instruction next week.
When it comes to one of the largest school districts in Metro Vancouver, instructors are being assured COVID-19 cleaning protocols will be followed, and that they won’t be responsible for disinfecting their own classrooms.
The Surrey Teachers Association outlined on Monday a number of concerns its members have about going back to school, including whether or not cleaning classrooms twice a day is enough and if there are enough caretakers to deal with high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
Surrey School District Superintendent Jordan Tinney is trying to quell some of the uneasiness, saying there are clear protocols for deep cleaning and disinfecting in place while reassuring teachers they will not be responsible for that.
“There is going to be supplies in every single classroom and that’s because we might want students to take some responsibility for wiping their desks and not disinfecting. But that’s the work of our CUPE and support staff, and we have caretakers and custodians who take care of that,” he tells NEWS 1130. “But, there’s no expectation that teachers are required to clean and disinfect.”
Tinney says teachers do have rights, and adds many teachers and support staff have applied for accommodation to not work because of medical concerns over COVID-19. The district is dealing with those on an individual basis.
“These would be things like, general themes like pregnancy, age, childcare, people with compromised immune systems or caring for someone who has compromised immunity,” he explains. “So the teachers have the right to refuse unsafe work and there is a process that is really closely outlined by WorksafeBC, and then there’s the request for accommodation, which we’re doing individually at the district level.”
He understands people are nervous, and notes people are mostly just “worried and anxious” about the situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every school is required to submit a “safety plan,” Tinney explains, adding those would outline what exactly deep cleaning means.
“So there’s a difference between, say, wiping surfaces as opposed to disinfecting tasks,” he assures. “So deep cleaning is really moving beyond the wiping over to disinfecting, and the protocols are really clear about how often that has to happen.”
Meanwhile, the BC Teachers’ Federation says while many union members have concerns about sanitation and social distancing, they don’t expect a majority of students to head back to class before September.
In-class instruction is set to resume on a part-time, voluntary basis starting June 1. Students will have the option to continue learning remotely.
Tinney has said virtual learning remains the main program for schools. Too soon for school for some B.C. parents
-With files from Tarnjit Parmar