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

New plan for industrial growth should still include western farmland, Abbotsford mayor says

Province denied city’s 2018 request to exclude lands from the Agriculture Land Reserve

Sunny skies ahead for Fraser Valley this week

Rain and smoke nowhere in the forecast after weeks of weather alerts

Submissions accepted for Anonymous Art Show

Online exhibit hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council in November

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Mission Mayor Pam Alexis to run for the NDP

Will take on Liberal Simon Gibson in the Abbotsford-Mission riding

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

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

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Most Read