A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver, Wednesday, September 2, 2020. The Vancouver School Board put on a tour to show the COVID-19 precautions being taken to help keep children safe in the new school year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A day before school starts, B.C. teachers’ union still worried over lack of remote learning

BCTF worried about lack of face shields, remote learning option

As teachers wrap up their second day of back-to-school prep before students return to classrooms Thursday, the president of B.C. Teachers’ Federation had mixed feelings on how ready the education system is to welcome back hundreds of thousands of kids.

B.C.’s teachers returned for health and safety orientations on Tuesday, a process that Teri Mooring said “seems to be going fine.”

However, she said that some schools have not received their masks shipments yet. The province mandated masks for teachers, staff and middle and high school students in “high traffic areas” last month and pledged to provide two reusable ones per person. Masks are not required in classrooms.

Mooring said that so far, teachers have been supplied with disposable masks, but that another piece of personal protective equipment is lacking.

“The ministry secured 54,500 face shields,” Mooring told Black Press Media Wednesday (Sept. 8). “We knew it wasn’t enough for everyone… but the understanding was that any teacher or support staff worker who wants a face shield or a mask, they will be supplied.”

That doesn’t seem to be the case.

“In some situations, districts are even requiring prescriptions from a doctor for a face shield,” Mooring said. “When we know that there are tens of thousands available… it’s incomprehensible this is an issue right now.”

In a statement, the education ministry said they “are not aware” of any school districts requiring a prescription for face shields.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers’ union calls for remote learning option, stronger mask mandate

The province has provided $45.6 million to school districts for enhanced cleaning, hand-washing stations, re-usable masks and other supplies. It has also given $242 million in federal funding to school districts, distributed based on the number of students.

Physical markers to encourage physical distancing, directional arrows and staggered start times have largely been set up, although Mooring said “it does depend on the school district as to how well this has been done.”

Mooring is hoping to see more plexiglass barriers set up in places like counsellors offices, or even for on-call teachers, who are not part of the 60 to 120-student learning cohorts.

“It is warranted for classrooms to have some plexiglass barriers put up,” she said. “With 30 desks, you are not able to physically distance those desks by even a metre.”

Guidelines for physical distancing require two metres of space to slow the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Teachers’ union slams B.C.’s return-to-school plan; says ad with Dr. Henry is ‘unrealistic’

Mooring said the issue at the heart of the matter is that so much is being left up to school districts. The province’s 60 school districts released their education plans at the end of August. Many, like Surrey and Langley, do not have fully online options easily accessible to most students.

“That’s setting up a lot of inequities,” she said. The teachers’ union is hearing from parents who aren’t able to access online learning, or who only have that option for a short period of time.

As cases continue to spike in B.C., with 429 new COVID-19 cases identified over the Labour Day long weekend, the lack of online learning has parents worried.

“The fact that there isn’t more provincial guidance on this issue is troubling.”

But Mooring said that the parents who feel able to reach out to the BCTF and their school districts don’t worry as much as the ones she’s not hearing from.

“If I’m looking at a family that is perhaps housing and food insecure, that’s grappling with medical issues… that’s a family that’s not able to, necessarily, do that level of advocacy that the minister [of education] is requiring them to do in order to access this option.”

Teachers began to see inequities pop up when schools first went remote due to COVID-19 in the springs. Now, Mooring said this school year, with limited options for worried parents to get their kids an education in a way they’re comfortable with, could worsen those issues.

“We’re a public education system; we’re supposed to be levelling out those inequities, we’re not supposed to be exacerbating them. It’s pretty shocking that… more hasn’t been done to ensure all parents are treated fairly.”


@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

The last forum before the election on Saturday focused on health care.
Boundary-Similkameen candidates talk health care over digital forum

The Support Our Health Care Society hosted the forum

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue were called out to a South Ruckle cabine where a homeless man had been using a portable stove to keep warm. Photo courtesy of Dep. Fire Chief Rich Piché
Firefighters discover man using a portable stove to keep warm inside South Ruckle cabin

Mayor Taylor said he was “ashamed” the city didn’t prepared an emergency shelter before Friday’s snow

Grand Forks’ Electric’s Sam Raybould eyes the powerline next to the Gazette’s office on 2nd St. Friday morning, Oct. 23. Crews were able to restore power by around noon. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Fallen branch knocks out power across much of Grand Forks

Power was knocked out by a fallen tree limb near City Park, said city official

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

The riding of Boundary-Similkameen has been held by the B.C. Liberals since 2009. (File image)
Past elections showed Liberal support in Boundary-Similkameen

Since 2009, riding has been represented by Liberal MLAs

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

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

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read