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COVID-19 safety remains an issue for teachers: BCTF survey

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
Summary

COVID-19 safety remains an issue for many teachers according to a new survey taken a few weeks into the new school year

Only seven per cent of members polled by their union believe in-person instruction is "completely adequate"

The BCTF says now that numerous exposures have been recorded, stronger communication is needed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Teachers don’t feel safe co-existing with COVID-19 in schools according to the BC Teachers Federation, as concerns continue to be raised by members a few weeks after classes resumed.

BCTF President Teri Mooring says safety has been top of mind for nearly 9,000 members taking part in a poll before Sept. 21.

“I haven’t seen any improvement and we were concerned about this –is a relaxation of some of the standards because there is no oversight or enforcement,” Mooring says.

She adds, most of the members taking part are worried classrooms don’t have enough space or access to fresh air.

“It’s a really highly stressed environment right now. Part of the frustration I think is not enough communication coming from local health authorities when there are cases diagnosed in schools,” she says.

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But NDP Leader John Horgan says teachers and parents with concerns need to be more proactive.

“Talk to the principals and the administrators in their school, make sure that they have all the information that they need and be confident that public health officials have always had a plan for sicknesses in schools pre-pandemic,” he says.

“Is it perfect? Certainly not, but we’re going to work every day to do what we can to make it so.”

He adds millions have been spent making sure children and teachers are safe.

Now that numerous exposures have been recorded, Mooring says stronger communication is needed.

“That still protects individual privacy. There’s a lot more work that can be done there. We’ve seen the provincial health office say they recognize that there’s been deficits in the communication. Well, those deficits are still there,” she explains.

And Horgan agrees mistakes have been made.

“I’m not saying that this is a perfect situation. Everyone understands that,” he says.

“But why we are where we are in B.C. right now — leading the country in our response to COVID-19 — is because people have focused on working together to find the solutions that all of us need. We’re all in this together.”

He also admits oversight hasn’t been perfect, but says “I’m sure everyone is working as hard as they can.”

“No one is sleepwalking through this extraordinary time. If there’s more resources needed, they’ll be available. Communication has to continue each and every day. If you don’t get the answer you want on Tuesday, you should ask again on Wednesday.”

So far no outbreaks have been declared in schools.