As we embark upon a third pandemic school year, we want to bring a few issues to your attention before the start of school.
Political action about the inadequate school safety plan
As you likely know, the public health guidelines for schools were announced on Tuesday.
(Please note that there is also a BC Centre for Disease Control document for K-12 schools, but the Ministry of Education document is what will govern us.)
The health and safety guidelines fall short of what the BCTF was seeking. In particular,
- The mask mandate does not include students from K-3, for whom masks are just “recommended”.
- The plan says that schools should have MERV-13 filters for their HVAC systems. Not all Surrey schools are capable of using MERV-13. We believe that the province, like Ontario, should fund the purchase of portable HEPA filters for spaces that do not have MERV-13 filters.
- Cleaning will only be happening once per day, rather than twice.
It is not too late for the plan to be improved. We know from experience that political pressure on the government can influence them to go beyond what the Provincial Health Officer says. (An example of this was the government saying in July 2020 that masks would be provided for all staff and students who wanted them, even though the PHO did not require this.) Surrey is extremely important to this government, because 7 out of 9 MLAs are NDP, and issues in Surrey get a lot of media attention.
The Safe Schools Coalition is holding a rally this Saturday, August 28 at Holland Park at noon. This is primarily a parent event, but the STA is supporting it, and some speakers will be teachers. I urge you to attend if you can and encourage Surrey parents you know to do so as well. There will be media present, and the more people who are there, the more effective a message it sends to government. There will be private security present in case there are any anti-mask/anti-vaccine protesters seeking to disrupt the event. There is a Facebook event page.
Common member questions
- Will secondary schools be using quarters or semesters?
Cohorts or learning groups are not being used this year. The school district initially planned on the assumption that there would be quarters but is currently considering whether to move to semesters. We expect a decision Friday, August 27.
- Will fogging still be used?
Our current understanding is that fogging will still be happening, but once per day rather that twice, so it should not be interrupting secondary classes.
- If summer pro-d is virtual, do we need to be on the school site?
The STA’s position is that staff should not be required to be at the school site for a virtual pro-d event. We have not heard of any school administrators directing staff to be on site; if they do, please contact Erin Coleman (Professional Development Officer) at email@example.com. If the event is held in-person, then it must follow COVID-19 rules, which would include adults wearing masks indoors, not sharing food, etc.
Your union is here to support you. The STA office will be reopening on Monday, August 30. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to your STA table officers. Our contact information is available via our Table Officers page or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be directed to a table officer for a response.Leave a reply