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B.C. education minister says 'education partners' were consulted on school break decision

Last Updated Dec 10, 2020 at 9:36 am PDT

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B.C. education minister says 'education partners' were consulted on discussions around winter break timelines at schools

Jennifer Whiteside says education partners were consulted, just not officially at the steering committee

BC Teachers' Federation said earlier this week it was not being consulted about COVID-19-related school safety decisions

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The discussion, or lack thereof, about the school break not being extended this holiday season highlights a communication gap between the province and teachers.

Earlier this week, the BC Teachers’ Federation said it was not being consulted about COVID-19-related school safety decisions. But Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says discussions did include “education partners,” just not formally at the steering committee.

“The public health officer made the determination that no adjustment was necessary to the school break schedule. And that is a decision that I understand our education partners largely agree with,” she says.

Whiteside says she believes the BCTF said it didn’t take issue with the province’s decision not to begin winter break early or extend it.

“It’s something that, you know, I understand there was some informal discussions in the school community, in the education community about, but wasn’t something that had been brought forward, formally, to any of our tables,” Whiteside adds.

However, the teacher’s union is taking issue with the fact the the opinion of the teachers was never brought to the steering committee.

RELATED: B.C. teachers, steering committee not consulted by PHO on school break decision, union says

However, the head of the teachers’ union says this is precisely the kind of issue that should have been discussed at the steering committee instead of being unilaterally decided – like the cohort model – without teachers’ input.

The union added it’s not about the final decision, it’s about teachers having their opinions heard.

Whiteside adds, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, educators, students, and parents have all worked hard to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 where “kids can continue to learn safely in the classroom.”

“There’s no evidence to indicate that it would be safer for kids to be out of the structured and safe environment that we built for them in school.”

Whiteside says safety plans have been monitored and will be addressed regularly so if an issue arises, “we don’t really need extra time at the end of the school break to do that. We have an ongoing process for that.”