Loading articles...

COVID-19: Abbotsford teachers say move to maximize class size, shuffle cohorts puts everyone in danger

Last Updated Sep 18, 2020 at 7:22 am PDT

FILE (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Many Abbotsford classrooms will be combined Friday to save money

Teachers allege district is penny pinching instead of protecting them

Daily cleaning not meeting PHO guidelines, say Abbotsford educators

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — Abbotsford classrooms are going to be less safe as the district moves to maximize class sizes, say teachers who are frightened about what that means for cohorts mixing together and social distancing.

The school district says it’s combining grades into split-grade classrooms and fitting more kids into classrooms in a response to enrollment and calls it a standard best practice.

“In cases where enrollment is below projected, classes are reconfigured to provide appropriate support levels for students. Some classes are combined, and a teacher is reassigned to another school in the District,” says a statement from Abbotsford School District.

“This reconfiguration period is not unusual in school districts across the country, and the process is considered a typical best practice to ensure schools are structured in a financially responsible way,” says the statement.

NEWS 1130 spoke with three Abbotsford teachers, who we are not naming in order to protect their privacy. They say they feel abandoned, betrayed and scared as the classroom and cohort shuffle is set to take place Friday, Sept. 18.

“Almost our entire school will go to split grades to accommodate full classes,” says one teacher who alleges the district is putting the bottom line before the well being of students and the public at large.

“Richmond is hiring teachers and extra cleaning staff and our district is surplusing teachers and jamming classes full,” she says.

Another teacher alleges teachers and staff have been directed by Abbotsford’s superintendent to skip COVID-19 daily health checks because it can be assumed parents are only sending kids who are healthy to class.

“We all know kids come to school sick,” she says.

She adds the school budget is frozen and paper, markers and other supplies are being rationed while cash is being withheld, making her wonder where all the extra funding is going at this time.

“I’m not sure where the money is going because we’ve just been cut, cut, cut, cut, cut” she says.

Related stories: 

“I was under the impression we would be hiring new teachers so that we can keep the classes small and safe.”

Teachers say they have reached out to the BC Teachers’ Federation for help but the union is overrun with complaints and issues.

They say masks promised for students have not yet arrived and that mandatory twice a day cleaning in classrooms is not happening, in part because smoky skies and bad air quality are keeping kids inside and custodians can’t clean while kids are present.

One educator says she is bringing her own cleaning supplies in to compensate for the lack of sanitization on shared surfaces.

“The shift in their cleaning is just in their hours, we have a daytime custodian now but there has been no increase in their hours … they just shifted the custodians from evenings or afternoons to daytime and afternoon, so it looks like we have more cleaning but we actually don’t.”

Another educator tells us the stress is taking a mental and physical toll on teachers who are scared for their safety and feel abandoned by the district.

“It’s really taking a toll, people aren’t sleeping, people aren’t eating,” she says.

“We have no power. We voice our questions, we voice our concerns, we voice our frustrations and nothing is taken seriously, it’s just ‘forge forward,’” she says.