The teachers’ union said that this B.C. government ad, released Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, is not realistic to how schools will look in the fall. (Twitter)

Teachers’ union slams B.C.’s return-to-school plan; says ad with Dr. Henry is ‘unrealistic’

Better ventilation, remote learning options and more teachers needed, Teri Mooring says

The union representing the province’s teachers says time is running out to prepare schools for a safe return to class next week.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said Monday (Aug. 31) the $242 million announced for the province’s schools by the feds last week could go a long way to making schools safer.

First on her list? “A remote option offered to parents across the entire province that allows their child to stay connected to their home school, that allows them to keep their spot at their home school.”

Currently, B.C.’s return to school plans do not provide a remote learning option, although Education Minister Rob Fleming last week said that districts should work with parents to finesse strategies for specific students.

READ MORE: B.C. government approves return-to-school plans from 60 districts

However, Mooring said that the province has left too much up to school districts, leaving parents with an uneven system of accommodations across the province. Although some districts are offering remote learning, and individual parents are pushing for that option for their children, she said there should be a top-down approach to put it into place.

“We see that it wouldn’t be difficult to provide this [remote] option – the funding is there,” she said. “It is important there is some leadership shown by the provincial government on this.”

READ MORE: B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 school plan

Mooring said although that would require hiring more teachers, both for remote learning and to decrease classroom density, she believes that can be done in time for students to return to school on Sept. 10.

“It’s very common that that hiring happens in late August and early September in schools and so that that’s not unusual,” she said.

“There is the time and the money to improve the restart plan in B.C…. we need to see that money being released early this week.”

Mooring also took issue with an ad released by the B.C. government last Friday that showed a classroom with a small number of students acting out a classroom environment.

“It is an unrealistic depiction of what schools will look like,” Mooring said. “There are a handful of students in the room and they’re safely distanced apart. That’s not the plan right now.”

The number of students shown in the classroom was smaller than the averages given by the education ministry, which range between 18 students for kindergarten to 22.4 for high school classes.

However, Mooring said that class averages do not give an accurate impression of class sizes, which are often skewed by small schools in rural B.C.

“The most common class size for Grade 4 to 12 is 30; that’s the cap that’s most common in collective agreements,” she said. “We know we’re going to have classrooms of 30, thousands of them across the province, and not every district has caps of their class sizes.”

READ MORE: School advocates hope new federal funding can assist B.C. schools with more flexibility

The issue, Mooring said, is exacerbated in portables, often used in growing school districts such as Surrey and Chilliwack.

“Some of them have windows that open and some of them don’t,” she said. “They’re often very small spaces.”

The BCTF would also like to see a “more robust” mask policy, which would see younger children wearing masks in more situations. Currently, masks are only mandated in “high traffic areas” such as hallways and buses for kids in middle and high schools. The union would also like to see some of the federal funding used to upgrade HVAC systems.

During a Monday COVID-19 update, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the ad was “certainly not meant to represent” a real life classroom, but rather a conversation between her and kids in B.C. about what school would look like in the fall.

“We need to realize that was not a commercial about what a classroom was going to look like,” she said.

“We all had masks and we talked about when we would wear them,” she noted, adding that each child chose if and when to wear their mask.

“It was an opportunity for us to speak to children about some of the things that will be new and different.”

Henry added that the ad showed children from different schools around B.C., rather than kids from within one learning group, making for a greater emphasis on physical distancing and smaller numbers of students.

In a statement to Black Press Media, the education ministry said the purpose of the ad was to direct parents and students to a B.C. government websites for more information: backtoschool.gov.bc.ca.

“Each school will operate under strict health and safety measures with well-stocked supplies to support regular hand washing and hand hygiene and frequent cleaning of classrooms and high touch surfaces, along with daily monitoring of personal health before the school day begins and providing non-medical masks for students and staff,” the ministry said.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationSchools

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

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Kootenay teachers’ union going to labour relations board over COVID-19 related work conditions

Union issues open letter to premier, education minister, health minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Trail market goes garlic

The event goes Saturday in downtown Trail from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Two men killed in Hwy 3 collision west of Castlegar

The single-vehicle incident happened Thursday morning

Central Mountain Air to offer flights out of Castlegar

The company will be offering Castlegar to Vancouver flights October 1.

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read