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.”
The combination of COVID19 pandemic and extremely poor wildfire air quality is deeply concerning for #bced. Teachers and students should not be in crowded classes with no ventilation or fresh air. #BCpoli, the employers, @CDCofBC and PHO need to provide advice and take action now
— BCTF (@bctf) September 13, 2020
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.”
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.
The @Surrey_Schools Surrey School District is sending this message to parents tonight “Schools will limit smoke exposure for staff and students” (adjustments to schedules, indoor/outdoor time, monitor students) #SurreyBC #BCwildfire pic.twitter.com/dU6R93uFDA
— Bruce Claggett (@BruceClaggett) September 14, 2020
“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