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

Cheryl Day, a member of the management team at the Cow Café West Coast Grill, celebrates the 200 Dine Cowichan Meals the restaurant sold in support of Island Savings’ Get a Meal, Give a Meal campaign. (Submitted)
Business notes: Dine & Sip Cowichan raises $10,000 for local food banks

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

North Cowichan will kick in more funding for the new field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex as the estimates of construction costs have dramatically risen. (File photo)
North Cowichan to contribute $325,000 more towards field house project

Cowichan Sportsplex project’s costs jump significantly

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m.
Trickster author Eden Robinson will be reading from her new book during an online conversation hosted by the Vancouver Island Regional Library on April 23. (Red Works Photography)
A&E column: Music, art, fundraising and renowned author

What’s going on in Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment

Members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 gathered at the Duncan Cenotaph on April 9 to commemorate the First World War Battle of Vimy Ridge. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Valley veterans remember Battle of Vimy Ridge

Members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 gather at Duncan Cenotaph

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read