A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver, Wednesday, September 2, 2020. The Vancouver School Board put on a tour to show the COVID-19 precautions being taken to help keep children safe in the new school year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A day before school starts, B.C. teachers’ union still worried over lack of remote learning

BCTF worried about lack of face shields, remote learning option

As teachers wrap up their second day of back-to-school prep before students return to classrooms Thursday, the president of B.C. Teachers’ Federation had mixed feelings on how ready the education system is to welcome back hundreds of thousands of kids.

B.C.’s teachers returned for health and safety orientations on Tuesday, a process that Teri Mooring said “seems to be going fine.”

However, she said that some schools have not received their masks shipments yet. The province mandated masks for teachers, staff and middle and high school students in “high traffic areas” last month and pledged to provide two reusable ones per person. Masks are not required in classrooms.

Mooring said that so far, teachers have been supplied with disposable masks, but that another piece of personal protective equipment is lacking.

“The ministry secured 54,500 face shields,” Mooring told Black Press Media Wednesday (Sept. 8). “We knew it wasn’t enough for everyone… but the understanding was that any teacher or support staff worker who wants a face shield or a mask, they will be supplied.”

That doesn’t seem to be the case.

“In some situations, districts are even requiring prescriptions from a doctor for a face shield,” Mooring said. “When we know that there are tens of thousands available… it’s incomprehensible this is an issue right now.”

In a statement, the education ministry said they “are not aware” of any school districts requiring a prescription for face shields.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers’ union calls for remote learning option, stronger mask mandate

The province has provided $45.6 million to school districts for enhanced cleaning, hand-washing stations, re-usable masks and other supplies. It has also given $242 million in federal funding to school districts, distributed based on the number of students.

Physical markers to encourage physical distancing, directional arrows and staggered start times have largely been set up, although Mooring said “it does depend on the school district as to how well this has been done.”

Mooring is hoping to see more plexiglass barriers set up in places like counsellors offices, or even for on-call teachers, who are not part of the 60 to 120-student learning cohorts.

“It is warranted for classrooms to have some plexiglass barriers put up,” she said. “With 30 desks, you are not able to physically distance those desks by even a metre.”

Guidelines for physical distancing require two metres of space to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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

Mooring said the issue at the heart of the matter is that so much is being left up to school districts. The province’s 60 school districts released their education plans at the end of August. Many, like Surrey and Langley, do not have fully online options easily accessible to most students.

“That’s setting up a lot of inequities,” she said. The teachers’ union is hearing from parents who aren’t able to access online learning, or who only have that option for a short period of time.

As cases continue to spike in B.C., with 429 new COVID-19 cases identified over the Labour Day long weekend, the lack of online learning has parents worried.

“The fact that there isn’t more provincial guidance on this issue is troubling.”

But Mooring said that the parents who feel able to reach out to the BCTF and their school districts don’t worry as much as the ones she’s not hearing from.

“If I’m looking at a family that is perhaps housing and food insecure, that’s grappling with medical issues… that’s a family that’s not able to, necessarily, do that level of advocacy that the minister [of education] is requiring them to do in order to access this option.”

Teachers began to see inequities pop up when schools first went remote due to COVID-19 in the springs. Now, Mooring said this school year, with limited options for worried parents to get their kids an education in a way they’re comfortable with, could worsen those issues.

“We’re a public education system; we’re supposed to be levelling out those inequities, we’re not supposed to be exacerbating them. It’s pretty shocking that… more hasn’t been done to ensure all parents are treated fairly.”


@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

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

Surrey school district proposing 13 new schools in the next decade

Staff suggest new designs for future builds to maximize school space

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Delta McDonald’s temporarily closed after employees test positive for COVID-19

Two employees at the Annacis Island location (1285 Cliveden Ave.) reported testing positive on Sept. 18

Scarecrow Festival given COVID twist

Art’s Nursery’s annual fall fundraiser, on the Langley-Surrey border, continues with some tweaks

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

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

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

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

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

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

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

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

Most Read