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Liberals call for review of B.C. pandemic back-to-school plan

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 16, 2020 at 3:09 pm PDT

FILE -Mary Polak, BC Liberal Party candidate in Langley. (Courtesy Mary Polak, Facebook)
Summary

The BC Liberal Party is calling for a review of the province's pandemic back-to-school plan

LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) — The BC Liberal Party called for review Friday of the province’s pandemic back-to-school plan.

“We should be in the B.C. Legislature right now, making sure assistance is flowing to those who need help, protecting students and teachers, and fighting the virus. Instead of working to ensure that our schools are kept safe, John Horgan put himself first and decided to call a risky election,” Liberal candidate Mary Polak, running for re-election in Langley, said of the NDP leader.

“Since September, there’s been an increasing number of COVID-19 exposure events in B.C. schools, which is why whoever forms government must do a review of the pandemic back-to-school plan currently in place.”

Since schools returned in September there have been 166 school exposure events, with 131 schools affected, and 24 schools with multiple exposure events, according to the Liberal Party.

“Certainly, we don’t want to second guess any of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines. She knows what she’s doing and her guidelines are sound,” Polak said.

“What we want to address is the way that government and, working together with school districts, has been planned out how, operationally, things will be done. I would say the top priority, especially as we’ve heard from parents across the province, is the inconsistency between school districts and the need for greater transparency and production of information for parents about exposures at school, and about the broader issues with respect to COVID. That transparency, that communication, is what parents are telling us is lacking,” she added.

Former Health Minister and NDP candidate Adrian Dix insists the plan in place is under the direction and guidance of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“If people have positive suggestions, they can make them, but I can tell you my summary of my position. I support Public Health in a pandemic,” he said. “Yes, we can do better and yes, we should listen to people. I understand many parents are concerned about this, but I stand with Public Health where I stood from day one.”

The Liberals, as part of the review, would also look at the effect the return plan has had on school staff.

“Having met with the Langley Teachers’ Association, and our party hearing from teachers across the province, there are still significant concerns with respect to their own personal safety, and we need to make sure that that is dealt with across the province consistently,” Polak said.

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On Friday, parents unsatisfied with COVID-19 handling at schools said they are planning a protest.

The group calling itself “Right to Fight COVID 19 in BC” is urging parents to keep their kids home from school next Tuesday in protest of the way things are being handled.

Earlier this week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed an application by two parents who wanted the province to implement tougher COVID-19 safety measures before schools reopened last month.

Justice Jasvinder Basran says in an oral decision posted online on Wednesday he is satisfied that the advice of public health officials in B.C. is based on the best available scientific knowledge.

He says evidence shows the officials considered the use of masks in schools, while the creation of learning groups of up to 60 or 120 students was also based on “sound scientific advice” balanced with the need to provide children with an education.