Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)

Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

Matt Westphal says the Surrey Teachers’ Association would like to see school districts be “formally empowered” by the province to implement further COVID-19 safety measures.

Westphal, the STA president, spoke to the Now-Leader after staff staged the third and fourth walk-ins in the district at A.H.P. Matthew and Maple Green elementary schools following more than a dozen COVID-19 variant exposures at Surrey schools since the end of February.

READ ALSO: ‘Solidarity march’ by teachers, staff at Surrey school hit by COVID-19 variant, Feb. 23, 2021

“Currently, there’s just one common set of rules for the whole province, regardless of the actual conditions in any particular area,” he said. “We just don’t think that makes sense when there’s such a disproportionate number of cases in Fraser Health, and especially in Surrey. The districts need to be given those tools, and right now, their understanding is they are not permitted to exceed the provincial guidelines and that just makes no sense to us.”

He added the STA would like to see the province give districts power to “further safety measures over and above what’s currently done across the province, so that they can deal with hot spots within their district.”

Westphal said that could be looking at firmer restrictions on certain schools or areas in the district.

With the influx of variant cases and exposures, Fraser Health has telling entire classes to self-isolate.

READ ALSO: Six classes at four Surrey schools isolating after COVID-19 variants detected, March 3, 2021

“It does seem as though Fraser Health is acting more aggressively when it comes to self-isolating a whole class, versus in the past they might have just self-isolated one or two people and told everyone else to self-monitor.”

But Westphal said he and the STA feel that could go further.

We think those are important measures to take. We think they could broaden them even more … increase their capacity to do rapid testing,” he noted. “Maybe some schools, if we could, it would be nice to be able to close the schools down and have them go remote for last week before spring break. But that’s currently not possible for the district to do under the provincial rules.”

With spring break less than two weeks away, Westphal said it’s difficult to predict whether or not transmission could worsen.

“If people follow what has been strongly recommended and keep mainly to themselves and don’t gather together, don’t travel, then spring break should actually help,” he explained.

“However, if they don’t (follow the rules), then we might be seeing a definite increase during the break and then beyond. That’s a big question mark for us and a big concern.”

As for the response to the walk-ins, Westphal said it has been positive from parents and staff.

“We all have a common interest in making sure that the schools can keep running and that they can be safe for everyone.”

The STA, he said, isn’t telling teachers to plan the walk-ins, but they’re just happening at the grassroots level.

“I wish people would listen to the voice of the people who are actually on the ground, going into those buildings everyday, trying to keep things safe for everyone as much as they can. I wish that voice would be heeded.”

Westphal added there is a walk-in planned at Harold Bishop Elementary on Thursday morning (March 4).



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusEducation

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

Just Posted

Eternity Medical Equipment’s ECAN95 masks have received Health Canada approval and CSA certification. (Eternity Medical Equipment photo)
South Surrey N-95 equivalent manufacturer launches mask recycling program

Eternity Medical Equipment partners with Ontario-based LifeCycle Revive

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Signage on a South Surrey sidewalk reminds pedestrians to respect social-distancing guidelines. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey records 4,400 COVID-19 cases in March

New cases almost doubled between February, March

President of the West Coast Fine Arts Show, Brian Croft, said pandemic restrictions necessitated a shift to an entirely online event this year, running until April 30. (File photo)
The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

Website version retains the flavour of the annual live exhibition

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read