The Surrey Teachers’ Association is calling on Surrey MLAs and school trustees to commit to improved safety in schools in COVID-19 hotspots.
On Friday (April 30), the STA held a ‘Car Caravan,’ driving by the offices of Surrey MLAs Jinny Sims, Harry Bains, Rachna Singh, Garry Begg, Bruce Ralston and Jagrup Brar. There were two, with one starting at Sullivan Heights Secondary and the other starting in Guildford.
STA president Matt Westphal said the association has been saying all year that schools are “not as safe as they need to be.”
“Even though most school staff have been vaccinated, we’re still seeing people getting sick.”
Despite most of the district’s school-based staff being vaccinated between late-March and early April, he said the district told the STA it isn’t seeing much of a decrease in cases.
“There needs to be more. There can be more. That’s why we’re going to keep on pushing until the end of the school year.”
With roughly two months left in the school year, Westphal added there is “still a lot of time for things to go poorly.”
On Friday alone, he said 75 people were told to self-isolate, three classes are self-isolating and 17 schools were sent exposure notices.
“That’s just a very typical day. This virus is not going away.”
Given that five of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 hotspots fall within the Surrey school district, Westphal said the association is again asking for improved health and safety measures in schools.
Westphal noted it’s “impossible to maintain physical distancing in overcrowded schools,” which is a “core concern” when several schools are over-capacity.
The STA is calling for the immediate implementation of reduced class sizes, with the provision of more remote learning options; a mask mandate for kindergarten to Grade 3 students; and improved ventilation in classrooms and other workspaces.
“It’s been a long and slow process because we’ve been advocating since before the school year started,” he noted.
“It shouldn’t be this hard. I don’t understand the resistance from the provincial health office in doing that. We don’t give up. We know what can be done to make things safer.”