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B.C. teachers want increased physical distancing measures before school starts

Last Updated Sep 2, 2020 at 10:46 pm PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS1130 photo)
Summary

Increased physical distancing is a key point as B.C. teachers negotiate with the province about COVID-19 funding

The federal government announced last month B.C. will get up to $242 million for health and safety measures

BCTF not looking at strike action: president

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Increased physical distancing is a key point as B.C. teachers and the provincial government negotiate how to spend federal funding for health and safety improvements ahead of next week’s return to school.

The federal government announced last month B.C. will get up to $242 million of the $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories safely reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Teachers Federation President Teri Mooring said Wednesday the union’s disagreement with the province is about how the money for health and safety will be used.

“My understanding around that money is that’s exactly the intention of it,” she said.

“What we’re looking for is for the $242 million to be used above and beyond what was already allocated.”

She added teachers are looking for some fundamental preventative measures in classrooms before the start of the school year.

Mooring said teachers also want the province to have a similar remote learning option offered in all school districts.

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“We’d also like to see a remote option offered to all families across the province. We’re still very much actively working with the government in terms of all these things, but we’re also expressing our concern … to draw attention to what it is that we need to see.”

As for possible strike action, she said the union is not looking at that as an option and is trying to avoid what’s happening in Ontario, where teachers are looking to the labour relations board for approval to move in that direction.

“What we’re looking at, again, is working within the system,” Mooring said. “There isn’t an ability for us to engage in legal job action at this point in time, where you have a collective agreement.”

She said teachers are looking to continue working with the province.

“We don’t want to be in an adversarial situation and we don’t think we are,” Mooring added.

“We understand everyone in this system is trying to make it as safe as it can be. We, perhaps, have a disagreement with the government about what that measures will need to be and we’ll continue to advocate for them.”

The province’s return-to-school plan, release at the end of July, included $45.6 million to support school districts and independent schools, including $23 million to hire more staff and for cleaning.

Of the total, $2.2 million will be spent to ensure reusable face masks are available, said the province.

The funding also included $3 million to support remote learning, such as technology loans or software to support students with disabilities or complex needs.

Listen to full interview with Teri Mooring: