The Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union (KCTU) is asking the province to reinstate the COVID-19 protocols that were in place when the last school year ended in June for the new school year.
In an open letter submitted by KCTU President Andy Davidoff to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Andrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, KCTU lists a number of concerns with the province’s plans for schools.
The union says they are very concerned that the current guidelines for schools are much weaker than the ones that were in place in June, despite the fact that we are now facing a much more virulent strain of COVID-19. This is compounded with the fact that many Local Health Areas in the Kootenays are also experiencing some of the highest rates of infection in the province.
“We are trying to understand why you removed the following protection measures for our students, who cannot be immunized, that we know worked in June,” says Davidoff.
Those measures include:
• Seating arrangements will be back to normal.
• Additional daytime custodians will no longer be in place to clean our schools.
• Our schools will only be cleaned once instead of twice a day.
• Toys and manipulatives won’t need special cleaning.
• Cohorts limiting contact between students will no longer be in place.
• Students will not be limited to who they interact with in hallways and during breaks.
• Whole school assemblies will now be OK to be held.
• School visitors will be now more welcome and there will be no requirement that they need to be vaccinated.
• We will not have the same plan for contact tracing and the reporting of cases in schools that we had in June.
• Principals will not be communicating with us about cases in our schools.
The union is also concerned that educators may never know about COVID cases in their classrooms unless there is a cluster or outbreak identified by public health authorities.
They also question “a disconnect between the guidelines for group meetings and activities in communities versus those in our schools.”
“We need to pay attention to pediatricians and researchers who tell us to take the Delta variant more seriously and the effect it has shown on children in places where schools are already back in session,” says Davidoff.
The letter asks the decision makers to work with educators to reinstate protection measures before the first day of school on Sept. 7.