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BCTF demands meeting with Dr. Bonnie Henry over concerns about COVID-19 infections in schools

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 1, 2020 at 5:27 am PDT

FILE: A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver on September 2, 2020. Students across British Columbia are getting ready for COVID-19 orientation sessions this week amid a flurry of new protocols aimed at reopening schools while the pandemic wears on. Education Minister Rob Fleming has said districts are expecting 85 to 90 per cent of students to attend school in person, but some parents and students say they're frustrated by the lack of remote learning options, large class sizes and inconsistent messaging when it comes to physical distancing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The BC Teachers' Federation wants transparency, and more timely information when it comes to exposures in schools

The BCTF sent a letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry requesting a formal meeting

Teachers also want to be included in the contact tracing process to help identify possible transmissions

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Teachers in B.C. are raising some serious concerns about the reporting and tracking of COVID-19 cases within school walls.

The BC Teachers’ Federation sent a letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry nearly a week ago, in which members requested a formal meeting. They’re now going public after not hearing back from the provincial health office.

Teri Mooring, BC Teachers’ Federation President, says the union wants transparency, more timely information when it comes to exposures in schools, and other measures in place to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

“Teachers need to know when a student has been diagnosed. They need to know in a timely manner. There’s been some assurances that it’s happening, but what we know is that’s not happening quickly in all cases. In some cases, students are the ones to inform teachers,” she said.

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The BC Teachers’ Federation states that although Fraser Health is communicating with parents and making information public in a timely manner, Vancouver Coastal Health is falling behind.

“It has improved, but we’re a ways away from it being good enough. The different health authorities seem to have different approaches. VCH is posting more of the cases now. But we have concerns about that”

In the Sept. 23 letter, the teachers’ union says: “Vancouver Coastal Health has only posted one exposure, that at Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver, while news reports are full of additional examples in Vancouver, Richmond, and on the North Shore.”

Mooring says another key concern is having teachers be included in the contact tracing process, to identify close contacts of individual students who are diagnosed.

“Teachers aren’t a part of that process. We understand the concerns about privacy that’s why we’re asking for a conversation with the provincial health office. We feel that if a student in the classroom has been diagnosed, that the teacher ought to be a part of the contact tracing process if it’s one of their students,” says Mooring. “There are things that the teacher might notice that the student doesn’t.”

Meanwhile, Mooring says if their concerns are not addressed, they’re currently not authorized to strike.

“There isn’t a legal way for us to strike while we have a collective agreement in place. There are parameters around job action.”