British Columbia

B.C. teachers call for smaller class sizes and stricter mask regulations

The B.C. Teachers' Federation says many people are worried the government has not done enough to ensure student and teacher safety, especially in light of the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases.

Students, teachers and their families need more protection, B.C. Teachers' Federation says

Students are pictured being welcomed back to school with physical distancing protocols in place at Lynn Valley Elementary in North Vancouver, B.C., on June 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. Teachers' Federation is calling for smaller class sizes and stricter face mask regulations when schools start up again next month.

In a release, the union said many people are worried that the government has not done enough to ensure the safety of teachers, students and families, especially in light of the sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases in the province recently. 

"B.C. teachers and the families they go home to need more protection," said BCTF president Teri Mooring.

"The government's learning groups concept will work for contact tracing, but the plan doesn't include adequate preventative measures within the learning groups."

In a statement to CBC, Education Minister Rob Fleming said a number of the issues raised by the BCTF have been addressed.

"We will continue to work with teachers, parents, support staff and education partners on the steering committee on the safe restart plan," he said. "There are 25 teachers contributing to working groups that are hard at work creating detailed operational guidelines to support school districts with their restart plans.

Earlier this month, Fleming announced that students will begin returning to school on Sept. 10 and will be sorted into learning groups — clusters of 60-120 students that are meant to allow for social interaction while limiting the potential for widespread COVID-19 transmission.

Fleming said face masks will be required in high-traffic areas like hallways and on buses, but not in classrooms. 

In Wednesday's release, the BCTF is asking for further government action on seven points:

  • Reduce classroom density to allow for better physical distancing.
  • An option for remote learning, especially for medically complex children or those who have a close family member who is medically compromised.
  • Dedicated funding for improvements to school ventilation and HVAC systems.
  • Mandatory wearing of face masks for adults and students 10 years and older when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Retrofitting schools with physical barriers for safety where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Funding for additional cleaning of high-touch surface areas.
  • Accommodations for teachers who are immunocompromised or have chronic health conditions.

When asked if parents will be informed in the event of a positive COVID-19 case among school staff or students, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government is coming up with a plan.

"Every case is assessed, every case is contact traced and every case is worked on," said Dix. "And where it is important to inform people based on the medical evidence, we will do that in every case as well."


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