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)

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

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 on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former Smithereen frustrated with COVID-deniers following horrific bout with the disease

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

Pellet plants deal with a lot of combustible materials. (File photo)
“Fire-related event” at Houston pellet plant injures three, shuts down operations

Rumours of an associated explosion cannot be confirmed at this time

The Smithers District Chamber of Commerce coveted Alpine Man Statue for winners of the 2020 Community and Business Awards Nov 25. (contributed photo)
Smithers Feed Store named Business of the Year

Chamber of Commerce Community and Business Awards handed out in virtual ceremony via Zoom

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read