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

Tasty Tandoori Grill Restaurant. (Submitted photo)
Tasty Tandoori: Celebrating Indian cuisine in northern B.C.

As a part of small business week, the Express is featuring local Vanderhoof businesses

Cathy Malo, owner of Bird On A Wire Telus Koodo. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Bird On A Wire: Covering all your cellular, electronic and stationery needs

As a part of small business week, we are featuring local Vanderhoof businesses

Vanderhoof RCMP are seeking witnesses who may have seen a black, 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickup (similar to the one pictured) with an Alberta licence plate travelling west on Highway 16 towards Vanderhoof prior to a fatal rollover on Sept. 26 at around 6:30 p.m. (Photo submitted)
RCMP seek witnesses in fatal September crash on Highway 16 near Vanderhoof

RCMP are continuing its investigation on a single-vehicle, fatal crash that took… Continue reading

The Prince George RCMP is asking for the public’s help to find 29-year-old Colin Michaud Durrand. He has a history of violence and is considered to pose an increased risk to public safety, according to police, who advise the public not to confront Durrand if he is located. (Photo Submitted by RCMP)
Prince George RCMP ask for help locating violent ‘priority offender’ with ties to Quesnel

RCMP says Colin Michaud Durrand, 29, recently lived in Quesnel but may frequent Hixon, Prince George

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

Most Read