With just one week to go until BC students return to the classroom, the head of the union representing BC teachers has written a letter to Education Minister Rob Fleming imploring him to make adjustments to BC’s back-to-school plan, including smaller class sizes.
In the letter, BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) President Teri Mooring states that the $242 million BC is set to receive as part of the federal Safe Return to Class Fund “could be used in a proactive way to address many of the health and safety concerns teachers and parents have as the school year is about to start.”
Specifically, she states, “the federal funding should be used to reduce school and classroom density to enable teachers, support staff, and students to achieve physical distancing.”
Mooring writes that BC’s K-12 restart plan “needs to bridge the gap between the advice given to the public as a whole around physical distancing and the reality facing our schools.”
Teachers and parents, she adds, “are being told to do one thing in their home and community lives, but then told they can ignore the most important preventative measure, physical distancing, in classrooms.”
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And while Mooring notes teachers understand that the learning group model rolled out by the province helps with contact tracing and controlling an outbreak, it is “not a sufficient replacement for actual physical distancing.”
With $242 million in new funding from the federal government, Mooring writes that “we have a real opportunity to help everyone stay safer. An opportunity to provide better protection for the people who work in our schools.”
As such, she states, the BCTF is advocating on behalf of its members for the following:
- Smaller classes to allow for physical distancing across all grades,
- Hybrid and remote options in every school district to help reduce class sizes and school density as well as protect students and staff members, or their families, who are more vulnerable because of existing health concerns.
- Assurance that students who opt into remote learning remain connected to their school and space is available to them if they return to school in-person.
- Appropriate density and spacing for people working and learning in adult education, which is exempt from learning groups, without reducing either the number of adults who can access programs or the funding.
- More counsellors to support students in a trauma-informed manner.
“Using the federal funding to meet these objectives will ensure workers are safer and students have access to the education they need,” Mooring writes. “We all want our schools to reopen and teachers want to welcome our students back enthusiastically.”
However, “the government has a duty and responsibility to make it as safe as possible.”
And with the federal funding “you and your government now have the opportunity to make much-needed improvements to the restart plan,” writes Mooring. “With solid hybrid and remote options in place, there will be teachers who need accommodations for health reasons available to do this work.”
At the end of the day, Mooring states, BC teachers are ready to keep working with the province on getting the restart plan right.
“Let’s work together to ensure everyone in our schools is as safe as they can be,” she concludes.