President Teri Mooring responded to the government’s changes to the K–12
COVID-19 guidelines today with praise for some key changes and concern that
some steps were not taken.
“Overall, BC teachers will be relieved to see the
government and health officials finally move on key safety measures like a
stronger mask mandate and the potential to improve access to much-needed layers
of protection like barriers,” said Mooring. “BC teachers have been pushing for
critical improvements to the health and safety guidelines in our schools since
they were first implemented in September. These changes are long overdue and
took a tremendous amount of advocacy from our members and representatives on
the government’s steering committee and working group.”
“Today’s changes will make schools safer and that is
welcome news. However, the changes do not include improvements to school
density, ventilation, or the ongoing inadequacy of contact tracing. We need the
government, school districts, and health authorities to step up and make
improvements in those areas as well. More can be done to protect teachers, other
education workers, students, and the families we all go home to. The employer
and health officials have the power to take those steps.”
Mooring added that some of these changes can and
should be implemented within a matter of days.
“Teachers, support staff, students, and parents have
waited a long time for safety improvements. We can’t afford any more delays.”
Here are some of the changes the BCTF supports:
- The increased
clarity for key safety measures that will reduce uneven implementation across
- The stronger
mask mandate for middle and secondary schools.
removal of the term “not recommended” for mask wearing in elementary schools.
clear emphasis on the importance of all safety measures and the need for
improved layers of protection like barriers for those that need them. The BCTF
has had to take the issue of barriers to the Labour Relations Board
troubleshooting process because some districts refuse to provide them.
- The additional
guidance for physical health education and music classes that address key concerns
and allow those classes to proceed in a safer manner. These changes were done
in consultation with the Federation’s Provincial Specialist Associations and
set a good example of how health officials can work with the expertise within
the teaching profession.
- The emphasis
on a positive and inclusive approach to enforcement that focuses on prevention
and not punitive or stigmatizing approaches.
The BCTF’s outstanding concerns include:
stronger mask mandate does not apply to elementary students. However, the
removal of the term “not recommended” will make it easier for teachers and
school staffs to encourage more mask wearing. Parents and caregivers can help
by ensuring their children go to school with masks. Districts should supply additional
masks to students and staffs.
lack of action to reduce school and classroom density will not help staff and
students maintain physical distancing. However, it is good to see the
recommended distance revert to two metres after public health changed it to one
to two metres in the fall. Despite that positive change, distancing rules still
don’t apply in classrooms.
learning group cohort model has not changed and has proven to be a weak safety
absence of clear directives to improve ventilation.
inaction on improving the contact tracing system.
The BC Teachers’ Federation continues to work
proactively on the government’s K–12 Steering Committee and Health and Safety
Work Group, on ongoing efforts to improve the safety of our schools.