British Columbia

Union survey of B.C. teachers shows unease over COVID-19 safety in schools

A new survey commissioned by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation suggests more than half of teachers feel unsafe in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic and the vast majority want to see masks become mandatory.

Most teachers want mandatory masks, say ventilation and physical distancing are inadequate

A survey of B.C. teachers suggests 57.8 per cent do not feel safe during in-person instruction. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A new survey commissioned by the B.C. Teachers' Federation suggests more than half of teachers feel unsafe in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic and the vast majority want to see masks become mandatory.

The poll of 4,186 teachers found that 57.8 per cent do not feel safe during in-person instruction and 86.9 want to see all adults wearing face masks or shields. A slightly smaller portion (79.9 per cent) said students should wear them as well. 

"B.C. teachers have been calling on the government, health officials, and school districts to enhance health and safety measures in our schools for months," BCTF president Teri Mooring said in a news release. 

"From inconsistent mask use and poor ventilation to an inability to maintain physical distance in our classrooms, people are incredibly frustrated with how inadequate COVID-19 prevention measures have been in our schools."

The survey results were released Wednesday afternoon, a day before provincial officials are set to announce "enhanced health and safety guidelines" for kindergarten to Grade 12 students and staff. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside are holding a news conference at 10 a.m. PT on Thursday.

The poll results reflect longstanding concerns from teachers about in-person learning, despite Henry's assurances COVID-19 transmission is generally low in schools.

A majority of the teachers who responded to the survey felt that the ventilation systems in their schools aren't adequate and that class sizes are too large to allow for physical distancing. About half also said the quality and availability of personal protective equipment wasn't adequate.

The vast majority (83 per cent) said their mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic. 

The BCTF survey was conducted online by the union's research team from Jan. 6–12. Invitations to participate were sent to a random sample of 15,000 BCTF members.

According to the union, the margin of error for a survey of this size is +/- 1.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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