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Surrey teacher says some COVID-19 concerns not yet addressed ahead of return to school

Last Updated Sep 2, 2020 at 8:56 am PDT

FILE (iStock)

A Surrey teacher says she still has concerns that haven't been addressed as schools prepare for the new year

Surrey is among the districts to offer more at-home learning options to parents, students with concerns about returning

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As the days count down to the return to class next week, the anxiety for many is ramping up.

A Surrey high school teacher is among those with concerns, despite all her efforts to try and do what she can to make her classroom as safe as possible.

Lizanne Foster says she’s struggling to accept how her class is safe when standard COVID-19 distancing is not possible — no matter how often she’s told it is.

“Every time we bring up that our classrooms are not safe, we get told that the CDC has said that our classrooms are safe, that WorkSafe has said that our classrooms are safe. It’s like you are looking at a black box and someone is telling you, ‘No! That box is white,'” she tells NEWS 1130.

In its plan, the Surrey School District says employees will be trained and “will follow the health and safety guidelines for physical distancing and wearing masks when working across cohorts/learning groups.”

All students and staff are expected to wear masks anytime they are outside their cohort or when they can’t safely distance from others.

The Surrey School District along with some others, has also announced it will be offering more options for at-home learning after asking parents for their thoughts.

In a recorded message to parents shared on Monday, Surrey Superintendent of Schools Jordan Tinney says the district has decided to offer two “Surrey blended” options, on top of those already offered in the safe return plan approved by the province last week.

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However, many students are still expected to physically return to class in just about a week’s time. Foster says she still hasn’t heard a clear plan for when kids fall ill at school — something that was a challenge in June when there were few kids back in class.

“Phoned parents to say, ‘Please come get your child, your child is sick, they shouldn’t be here.’ Kids did not get picked up because, for many parents, they have no options. Parents can not come — there is nobody to come and pick up the kids. Where do you keep the kid — who is sick — in school?” Foster asks.

In an email to NEWS 1130, the Surrey School District says any student showing symptoms at school will be isolated until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian and go home.

“Every school has a designated room for this,” the email reads. “We will also be communicating with our families that if a student is feeling unwell, they should stay home and not enter the school.”

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the district says the school will “follow the direction of public health.”

Foster has a number of concerns, particularly around ventilation.

“So, I’ve been thinking about a HEPA air filter just to have in the room and trying to think of how I can ensure that there’s airflow, efficient airflow,” she explains.

B.C.’s education minister has said $242 million in federal funding for B.C. schools during the pandemic will be used, in part, to address health and safety concerns, including ventilation, and also to assist at-home learning.

B.C. teachers want it used to decrease class sizes.

An education expert has suggested pushing the reopening of schools to October to allow more time for districts to get it right.

The University of Victoria’s Valerie Irvine has proposed five changes are necessary before B.C. schools begin welcoming students and staff back, including a more adequate proper needs assessment.

For more back-to-school news amid the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.