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Surrey teachers angry and scared with another school ordered to close due to COVID-19 outbreak

Last Updated Nov 28, 2020 at 8:07 pm PDT

FILE -- Personal protection equipment is seen on the teacher's desk in classroom in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Fear and anger among teachers in Surrey after another school in the city was ordered to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak

Surrey Teachers Association is again calling for improved safety measures

The association is arguing there will be more school closures if nothing changes

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — The Surrey Teachers Association is calling on the district to immediately cut class sizes while also putting in other pandemic protocols, including a call for students to wear masks.

As another school in Surrey is ordered by Fraser Health to close for two weeks, teachers in Surrey say they are not surprised and unless changes are made, it won’t be the last one to have to close.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak forces two week closure of Surrey elementary school

In an open letter, the Surrey Teachers’ Association is calling on the district to make significant changes in the city.

Matt Westphal is with the association and explains to NEWS 1130 teachers are calling for two things.

The first demand is for class sizes to be capped at half-capacity while also calling for a re-establishment of online learning for parents who are afraid to send their kids to classes.

“We think we need to go to 50 per cent classroom density … So it’s basically going to a hybrid model. And the reason for that is it’s the only way that we can have physical distancing — which is really vital in reducing exposures and transmissions.”

He adds teachers are calling for all classrooms in both elementary and high schools to be capped at 50% (which in most cases would be 15 students).

Teachers are also demanding masks to be worn by students whenever possible.

“Currently, there’s no requirement for students to wear masks in any classrooms, elementary or secondary. We think we’re well past the time where they need to do that. Many students are doing it, but not all are. So in making it mandatory makes it that much stronger in terms of creating that culture of mask-wearing,” Westphal explains.

The Teachers Association in Surrey is also calling for accommodations for teachers who are immunocompromised or might have underlying health concerns.

“The two main feelings teachers are having are fear. Fear for their own safety, for their students and for their loved ones. And the other one is anger — and we’re hearing that more and more. Because from our perspectives, the public health authorities are simply not listening to what we’ve been telling them for quite some time — that this current system is not working, especially in a place like Surrey, which is kind of the epicentre of the pandemic. It’s not equipped to cope with a number of cases we have. So we’re going to keep if we keep on doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting, which is more people expose more people getting sick, and people are looking for a significant change, Westphal says.

RELATED: Surrey parents say Fraser Health order to close school due to COVID outbreak was inevitable

Cambridge Elementary was the first Surrey school to be ordered to close by Fraser Health for two weeks. The school is set to reopen Monday.