A mother from BC is asking the province to reconsider the reopening of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citing fears that it will create undue risk.
Patricia Cullen of Vancouver, who has a child in elementary school, has started a petition asking the Ministry of Education to keep BC schools closed, given that she feels there is not sufficient information on the medical impact of the coronavirus.
“We’re sending our kids back to school so early in this pandemic, without enough information to really know what we’re putting our children at risk for,” said Cullen in an interview with Daily Hive.
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“As a parent, I’m very aware that children are the fastest, best, most efficient way to respread the virus,” she added. “They’re far too young to maintain the level of sanitizing required, it makes no sense to me.”
According to the petition, Cullen also says that children of this age are too young to carry the social responsibility of proper sanitization for themselves and others.
“Young children are also less likely to recognize early symptoms of the virus, less likely to voice concerns and are most likely to enter the school carrying and spreading the virus,” reads the petition.
Cullen adds that when it comes to teachers, similar concerns about safety arise.
“Teachers have been advised not to wear PPE, including a mask, in class for fear of upsetting the children,” reads the petition.
“For some, this is an involuntary return to school for teachers and their children.”
She believes the decision puts parents and teachers in a difficult position.
“There are some parents who have to send their kids to school even though they would like to be able to choose not to for health reasons,” she added.
The petition has garnered over 1,000 signatures over the span of a few days, with teachers and parents adding comments agreeing with Cullen’s perspective.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday that schools in the province will remain closed for the remainder of the school year.
“I’m not going to chance it when it comes to our kids,” Ford said during a press conference.
As of Tuesday, May 19, BC has 2,444 confirmed cases of coronavirus, while Ontario has 23,384 confirmed cases.
Schools in BC will reduce the number of students in school each day, and most students will receive in-class instruction part-time.
In announcing the reopening of schools, Education Minister Rob Fleming noted that the return “won’t be back to the school life was before the pandemic,” adding that there “will be strict health and safety standards in place.”
Some of the measures schools in BC are required to implement include:
- Desks spaced apart and avoiding groups or gatherings of students in hallways or other common areas;
- Regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces like doorknobs, toilet seats, keyboards, and desks at least twice a day, and cleaning the school building at least once a day;
- Staggered drop-offs, lunch and recess breaks, with increased outside time;
- Staff and students (or their parents/guardians) must assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to be returned home;
- One student per seat on school buses, unless children are from the same house, with plexiglass separating the bus driver from students.
Schools in BC reopen June 1.
With files from Eric Zimmer.