The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) says that the province’s reopening plan for in-class school instruction is far from ready.
BC Education Minister Rob Fleming announced on Wednesday that enhanced safety measures and additional resources will allow for most students in grades K-12 to return to full-time, in-class learning in September.
The provincial government’s plan is built around using cohorts, which are small learning groups, to reduce the number of people that each student or staff member has to come in contact with.
Self-assessments will also be necessary and any student or staff member with even mild symptoms will be required to stay home.
However, Teri Mooring, BCTF president, says that “the plan needs more time and a lot more work” in order to “be successful and keep everyone safe.”
While she understands the difficulty of the pandemic, as well as the need for students to return to school, she argues that the plan “is still a work in progress.”
“A lot of excellent work has already gone into the restart planning by the steering committee and working groups,” Mooring said in a written statement. “But this announcement misses the mark on several critical components and should go back to those working groups.”
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According to the BCTF, in addition to being safe and careful, the reopening plan needs the support and buy-in of teachers, support staff, parents, and students. Bringing in too many people at once, even through the use of a cohort model, “is too much too soon.”
Some issues that the BCTF has introduced include more consultation and collaboration needed between school districts in unions, as well as having a test run of the health and safety measures in place before staff and students return to school.
Additionally, the federation says that teachers will need time in September to ensure that the learning spaces are equal and safe. There also needs to be more clarity surrounding the “cohort model” and how it will keep teachers safe.
“Teachers and support staff need time in September to adjust to the new structures, make sure the proper health and safety protocols work, and prepare curricular resources and lessons that meet the new reality,” Mooring said.
“If school staffs are given time to collaborate, get training, and prepare, everyone will be better off.”
Mooring also points out that there were many challenges surrounding the remote learning and partial in-class instruction that took place earlier this year.
But while she says the plan isn’t where it needs to be, she’s confident that the province “can get to a much better place.”
“We all share the same goal — getting students and teachers safely back into class — but there’s still a lot to do before we can say with confidence that September will be safe and successful,” Mooring added.
“So today, I’m calling on the Minister of Education, Office of the Provincial Health Officer, and government to let the steering committee and working groups keep taking on the big issues, come up with the right solutions, and make important changes to this restart plan.”