"We shouldn't have to fight": BC teachers demand changes as Omicron spreads
BC is in the midst of a new pandemic as the Omicron variant continues to spread. Now, the union representing teachers in BC is calling for more safety measures.
They want new protocols in place – and time to plan – before the return to classes in the new year.
Speaking to Daily Hive on Wednesday, December 29, BC Teachers’ Federation President Teri Mooring said that it’s a stressful time for teachers in the province.
“Teachers have been dealing with a lot in schools, trying to keep students safe without feeling like there are adequate safety measures in place. With the way that Omicron transmits…it’s very disconcerting,” she said.
“Quickly, Omicron is transmitting, so it’s critical that teachers get some planning time at the start of January in order to implement some of the additional safety measures that we’ve been talking about with the ministry over the course of the of the winter break here,” adds Mooring.
The BCTF outlined several safety measures that they want to see happen ASAP, including prioritizing teachers for booster shots, providing N95 masks, and addressing concerns about air ventilation and filtration in schools.
The Omicron variant has changed the pandemic. It’s more transmissible and has a shorter incubation. Safety measures in #bced schools must change too. Thousands of students remain unvaccinated and too many workers are waiting for boosters. The #bcpoli government must act. 1/6
— BCTF (@bctf) December 23, 2021
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The province is set to provide a live COVID-19 update with Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside in the afternoon on Wednesday, December 29 where it’s possible they announce new measures and publicly address some of the BCTF’s concerns.
“I do think there’s an understanding of the seriousness of the situation,” said Mooring. “And we’re concerned that the measures going to be put in place are not going to go far enough.”
“The concern is that we’re going to see high levels of school staff and students getting sick with Omicron and not being able to attend school,” said Mooring. “What could happen in that scenario is a lot of school closures.”
Mooring said that a hybrid model of in-person and online learning can stretch teachers thin, essentially doubling their workload during a time where 80% of teachers report that their mental and physical health has declined since the start of the pandemic.
When it comes to reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools, Mooring says the BCTF is already not happy with the ways things have been done.
“We already were dissatisfied with the amount of data that’s being shared around schools. And so we’re also looking for school-based administration and District administration to be able to share information about case of the virus within the schools in a way that still protects privacy.”