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BC Liberals demand update on COVID-19-related ventilation upgrades in schools

Last Updated Jan 18, 2021 at 5:51 pm 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 Liberals want a detailed breakdown of how $242.4 million in federal funding for schools has been spent

The BC Liberals say that because masks are not mandatory in schools the issue of air quality is particularly pressing

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The BC Liberals want to know exactly how much progress has been made on “vital ventilation system upgrades” in the province’s schools since September, saying the information is urgently needed as COVID-19 exposure notices continue to go out to families.

The demand comes as part of a push for a detailed breakdown of how $242.4 million in federal funding to help make schools safer has been spent.

Education critic Jackie Tegart has written a letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside “to request the timely release of more information about your government’s commitment to upgrade air ventilation systems in B.C. schools.”

Tegart tells NEWS 1130 why this is needed now.

“As we learn more about COVID and how it spreads and how long the droplets stay in the air, people are asking questions about how much work has been done in regards to ventilation in school. Has the government given direction in regards to the knowledge that is now available? How many dollars have been actually spent on those improvements?”

“I’m hoping that the public will get a response in a very timely way. We’re hearing concerns across the province. It’s not to create any kind of panic, it’s just simply to say we need to be transparent about how we are reporting out, and particularly around the 242 million. How many of those dollars are being used to ensure good air quality in our schools?”

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Without a mandatory mask policy for all students and staff in schools, Tegart says ventilation is vital.

“If they’re not wearing masks: What’s the quality of air in the schools? What are we doing in order to make sure that it’s the highest quality it can be?” she says.

“As we watch the numbers of exposures that are being shared with school communities, as we see the numbers go up — people are very very concerned. I think that we’re looking for every level of protection possible. We are absolutely supportive of children being in schools, but we need to ensure that every safety measure is taken.”