B.C. teachers’ union calls for smaller classes, masks in back-to-school plan

B.C. teachers’ union calls for smaller classes, masks in back-to-school plan

VANCOUVER — The B.C. Teachers’ Federation wants the province to reduce class sizes and make the use of masks mandatory wherever physical distancing isn’t possible as part of its back-to-school plan.

In a statement Wednesday, federation president Teri Mooring says it has been working with the province but some of its biggest concerns have not been met.

People have been told that physical distancing is the most effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and Mooring says teachers want to do their part.

However, she says the restart plan for kindergarten to Grade 12 has made no change to classroom density and it’s impossible to physical distance with 30 people in a classroom, even using learning groups.

The federation is calling for seven changes including smaller class sizes, dedicated funding for heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, and expanding mandatory mask use for children aged 10 and older to anywhere that physical distancing isn’t possible, which includes classrooms and laboratories.

The Education Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

School districts are to post final back-to-school details online by Aug. 26 but the ministry has provided some guidance on what is expected.

Learning groups were established on the advice of the provincial health officer to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and could be made up of a single class of students or multiple classes.

For elementary and middle school students, groups will be no larger than 60 people. Secondary school groups will be capped at 120.

Using 30 students who are 17 years old in a classroom for hours as an example, Mooring says it is impossible to maintain physical distancing.

“B.C. needs to reduce classroom density and mandate mask use whenever appropriate physical distancing isn’t possible. That includes our work spaces like classrooms, labs, and libraries — not just common spaces like hallways. B.C. teachers are workers, just like any other profession in this province, and they need to be safe.”

The union is particularly worried about the situation in B.C.’s largest and fastest growing districts that use hundreds of portables.

“Many B.C. schools also have outdated ventilation systems and thousands of students will be in classrooms without external windows,” Mooring says.

The union is also calling for a remote learning option, especially for children with medical problems or those with vulnerable family members, and accommodations for immunocompromized teachers.

Schools and worksites should be retrofitted with physical barriers for safety and the federation wants additional funding to cover twice-daily cleaning of high-touch surface areas in addition to regular cleanings.

On Monday, the ministry announced staff and students at middle and secondary schools will be required to wear masks on buses and in common areas like hallways when classes resume on Sept. 10.

The provincial government says masks will also be required whenever students and teachers are outside their learning group and cannot maintain an appropriate physical distance because of COVID-19.

Students who can’t wear masks for medical reasons will be exempt from the updated health and safety guidelines.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canada’s Kennedy to yesterday’s man: former PM John Turner dead at 91

Politicians and other public figures immediately began sharing memories

Community art project will thank front line workers

Red Deerians are painting hearts to say thank you to frontline workers.… Continue reading

Vaping persists amongst Canadian youth

New survey into vaping habits of youth

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

The 2020 Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., will be held as a special hybrid event

New tools, ideas needed to speed up housing strategy funding, CMHC president says

Slow turnaround time on some of its national housing strategy programs

Letter containing ricin sent to White House may have come from Canada: RCMP

The letter contained ricin, a toxic substance found naturally in castor beans

Nunavut reports first confirmed COVID-19 cases, saying both are mine workers

The territory says at this time, there is no evidence of transmission within site

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

The pandemic has shown how heavily Canada relies on migrant and undocumented workers

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Former prime minister John Turner dead at 91

TORONTO — Former prime minister John Turner, whose odyssey from a “Liberal… Continue reading

Hay’s Daze: Happy to be left out of the picture

Talk about being out of the loop. Head in the sand. Uninformed,… Continue reading

Most Read