BC Liberal Education Critic Jackie Tegart on Wednesday asked Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside why her government has continued to ignore calls from parents, teachers, and support staff for additional health and safety measures in schools, despite publicly admitting that her ministry has identified significant gaps in its COVID-19 safety plan for schools.
On Tuesday, the minister announced the deployment of six specialized COVID-19 teams to B.C. schools. So far more than 100 schools across B.C. have reported COVID exposure events, including the more infectious U.K. and South African variants.
“For months, we have been echoing the concerns of parents, teachers and students who have been asking for additional health and safety measures to protect against rising COVID-19 exposures — who have been rebuffed by this government which claims the plan in place is more than adequate,” said Tegart. “Now, we are learning that the Education Minister is deploying rapid response teams to classrooms facing exposures to COVID variants. It’s good to hear that steps are being taken as the NDP finally admits there are significant gaps in our school safety plan — yet it continues to ignore calls from educators and families for a mandatory mask policy, more widespread use of COVID rapid testing in schools, and more flexibility to allow school boards to implement additional layers of protection to protect against the rise in COVID variants.”
Tegart said no staff or child should ever fear for their safety when they step into a classroom. It’s time for Premier John Horgan and the NDP to admit their mistakes, implement the additional safety recommendations of staff and educators, and completely re-evaluate the current school safety plan, she added.