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Metro Vancouver schools will remain open as concerns over poor air quality amid COVID-19 mount

Last Updated Sep 13, 2020 at 8:14 pm PDT

(CityNews photo)

The union says classrooms lack ventilation and fresh air, prospect of heading back to class 'deeply concerning'

School districts are keeping an eye on the situation, implementing measures such as indoor recess

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province’s teachers union has taken to Twitter to say students and staff shouldn’t be returning to school Monday amid the combined hazards of COVID-19 and poor air quality, but no districts have announced plans to close.

The BC Teachers’ Federation says classrooms lack ventilation and fresh air, calling the prospect of heading back to class “deeply concerning.”

They are appealing to the province and employers to “provide advice and take action now.”

A spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Health says the response to hazardous, smoky conditions will vary by region and be determined by health authorities.

“Each health authority issues advice based on the conditions in their area,” a spokesperson says in an email.

“It is essential that all schools continue to follow their COVID safety plans and diligently screen staff and children for symptoms of COVID-19.”

RELATED: Vancouver air quality among worst in the world due to distant U.S. wildfires

All Vancouver schools will be open Monday, according to a statement from the school board. 

“District staff have been monitoring wildfire smoke projections and health advisories, and will continue to do so. As with all public health matters, the District follows the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health,” it reads.

“Should the current compromised air quality continue, vigorous activities like planned Physical Education classes outdoors, will not take place. In addition, students who are sensitive to smoke will be allowed to remain indoors during breaks. Exterior windows and doors will also be kept closed.”

The statement ends by outlining the COVID-19 precautions in place at district facilities.

Surrey and Delta have issued identical notices to parents outlining how they will address the issue of air quality.

“Our school district has been closely monitoring the situation, and is consulting with the Ministry of Education and our public health experts to ensure that our schools continue to be safe environments for our staff and students,” it reads.

The precautions being put in place include closing doors and windows, cancelling Physical Education classes, allowing students who are sensitive to smoke to stay indoors during lunch and recess.

“All of our schools will continue implementing COVID-19 infection control practices, including maintaining health checks, regular handwashing, remaining in assigned learning groups/cohorts and physical distancing,” the statements conclude.

With files from Liza Yuzda