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 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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Kitimat RCMP are requesting assistance locating 24-year-old Teah Wilken, who was last seen getting on a bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23). Kitimat RCMP Facebook photo.
Kitimat RCMP requesting assistance locating missing woman

Wilken last seen getting on bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23)

Randy Bell. File photo.
Former Smithers council candidate arrested for refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union

Salvation Army Christmas kettle campaign. File photo.
Kettle campaign delayed, kicks off Nov. 27

Salvation Army’s annual fundraiser to look different this year, thanks to COVID, tap option available

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read