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B.C.'s education minister continues to reject calls to close schools

Last Updated Apr 8, 2021 at 4:33 pm PDT

Classroom. iStock iStock

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside admits spike in COVID-19 cases is troubling

Whiteside says in-class learning remains a priority

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Despite mounting calls to close schools, B.C.’s education minister continues to insist they are safe.

“There’s no question these continue to be very anxious times and stressful times,” Jennifer Whiteside said, noting she understands many parents, teachers, and students are worried.

She says the spike in case numbers is troubling, but that current safety plans are working.

“We are working every single day. School districts, our health authorities, our provincial health authorities [are working] with our education partners to ensure that our schools are safe. We know keeping kids connected to schools is one of the most important things we can be doing right now,” Whiteside said.

She says in-class learning remains a priority, “..keeping kids connected to their schools for the social interaction, for the mental health support, the meal programs that they have access to. We really want to do everything we can do to keep kids connected to those services.”

Teachers in the Fraser Health region are again pushing for more aggressive measures because of the rising number of variant cases.

Key demands include moving to a mix of blended in-person and online learning, making masks mandatory for all kids in the K-12 system, and ensuring essential workers are vaccinated as soon as possible.

A program prioritizing teachers — as well as child care staff, grocery store workers, and other groups — is on pause, as the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently not recommended for people under 55 years of age. Those doses have since been diverted to pharmacies to be administered to people aged 55 to 65.

There’s no word on when that program will resume.

-With files from Liza Yuzda