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B.C. teachers push province to ramp up COVID-19 safety measures in schools

Last Updated Aug 19, 2020 at 12:49 pm PDT

Summary

Educators are expected to report back to their schools Sept. 8 but it's unclear if that's actually going to happen

The BCTF has outlined COVID-19 safety measures it wants the province to implement for a successful return to school

It's not entirely clear what teachers will do if the province doesn't adopt the measures laid out by the BCTF

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. teachers are turning up the heat on the province as they push the education ministry to increase COVID-19 safety measures.

The BC Teachers’ Federation is expressing concerns when it comes to B.C.’s school plan and is narrowing in on what it wants to see in and out of the classroom come September. This includes a stricter mandate on masks, smaller class sizes to allow for physical distancing, and more options for remote learning.

But it’s not entirely clear what teachers will do if the province doesn’t adopt the measures laid out by the BCTF.


BCTF President Teri Mooring will not directly say whether her union would refuse to come into work over this issue, but hopes the province will come around.

“We know we have time. We have a few weeks before school starts, and so we’re optimistic that we can get there. We see the need for a plan that everyone has confidence in,” she tells NEWS 1130.

“What we’ve been told all along is that the plans are in progress, the plans will change as different decisions are made and we’re optimistic that will happen. What we do need to see, is these preventative measures in place that will give everyone confidence moving forward,” she says.

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Beyond less dense classrooms, Mooring says she wants to see students in Grade 4 and older required to wear masks when they can’t keep their distance.

“One of the fundamental issues with the plan we’ve had all along is the size of the cohorts, and the fact that these preventative measures of physical distancing and wearing masks of students 10-year-[old] and up aren’t required within in the cohorts themselves,” she says.

Cohorts, or learning groups, will vary in size, which the province has said will consist of 60 to 120 students and staff. However, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the size of the groups will likely be smaller.


The BCTF also echoes a familiar call for more remote learning options, an issue parents have frequently raised ahead of the fall semester. Many parents seeking out at-home learning programs for the fall have also found them all to be filled up.

Mooring says parents need the choice “for parents of either children with complex medical conditions or with close family members with complex medical issues to have remote options that keeps those students attached to their school.”

Mooring notes the concerns raised are time-sensitive as school districts are currently developing safety plans, but she says work will continue to bring in the changes the BCTF sees fit.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Teachers Federation calls for all provinces to follow national health standards while re-opening.

With files from Kurtis Doering