BC government needs to slow down, get the restart plan right: B.C. Teachers’ Federation

THE B.C. Teachers’ Federation on Wednesday noted that earlier in the day, the federal government had announced that BC would receive more than $242 million to help restart schools in a safe way this September. BCTF President Teri Mooring applauded Premier John Horan’s efforts to help get that much-needed funding from the government. However, she expressed concern that the BC Ministry of Education went ahead with Wednesday’s announcement on the restart plan without working with partners on how to use that new funding to ensure the K–12 restart is as safe and effective as it can be.

“As teachers, we all want to welcome our students to class and get back to in-person teaching,” said Mooring. “We all want to get back to a place where every student is in school learning, socializing, and celebrating those ‘a-ha’ moments. It’s why we teach. The pandemic, however, has changed everything and it’s not going away. We need to do things differently and that starts with making sure staff and students can actually achieve physical distancing in our schools and classrooms. Under the government’s current plan, that physical distancing just isn’t possible.”

Mooring explained that Wednesday’s announcement on remote learning options is an important part of the overall strategy to have a successful school year. Students with health concerns, families living in multigenerational homes, and students who go home to an immune-compromised caregiver all need options that keep them and their loved ones safe. The BCTF, since the government first mentioned learning groups, has said more needs to be done on the preventative side—not just the contact tracing side.

“We need to do all we can to keep teachers, support staff, students, and families safe,” said Mooring. “That’s why I was hoping the government wouldn’t rush another announcement out the door, but take the time to improve the restart plan. I know the federal government’s funding announcement was unexpected, but we should see it as a huge opportunity to work together and get things right. The train has not left the station, school has not started. There is more than enough time to use the new $242 million in federal funding to improve the safety of our schools and classrooms.”

In a campaign launched five days ago by the BCTF, parents and teachers have been emailing BC MLAs to ask for their help to improve the back-to-school plan. Since it started, more than 18,000 emails have been sent to MLAs. In that campaign to MLAs, the BCTF is calling for the following:

* Smaller class sizes and reduced school density to allow for physical distancing.

* Stronger mask regulations for when physical distancing isn’t possible.

* Options for remote learning for students who need it.

* Funding to improve cleaning and ventilation.