Read our latest updates related to COVID-19.
Last updated: March 28, 2020 at 1:19 pm

March 28, 2020

Message from STA President, Matt Westphal

This has been a spring break like no other in our careers. We face many challenges in this public health crisis, and we must prepare to continue providing learning opportunities to students in a completely new format. The magnitude of what is ahead of us is huge, but we know teachers are extremely creative and caring people, and what we have to offer Surrey kids at this time is a continuity of contact with us—calm and professional adults dedicated to their learning and well-being.

We have been in daily contact with senior management over the break, and the agree that we will need to be patient with ourselves and with each other in this process. Adapting instruction to be able to support all students remotely will take time. You have seen Jordan Tinney’s videos to students, staff and parents; in each of them he has emphasized it will take time to figure out what to do. We know he has stressed this to principals as well.

The STA has been working throughout the break with the District on various issues relating to the return to work. There are lots of questions that remain unanswered, and that too will take time. We will be sharing information with you as it becomes available. We have send out a letter to STA reps and Staff Committee chairs helping them orient their school-level leadership to the many questions and concerns at hand. Our central advice to you is to carry on with your students as well as you can, and take the time you need to decide what needs to be done and how you are going to do it.

We know that this is a particularly difficult time for members who are Teachers Teaching On-Call. TTOCs are facing great stress and uncertainty. We are continuing to discuss with the District how to lessen the impact of school closures on TTOCs, but at present it does appear as though TTOCs will need to rely on Employment Insurance and the new relief programs that have been announced by the federal and provincial governments.

As for us at the STA office, we are here for you! We will mostly be working remotely, and our physical office will be closed to members and the public. The general switchboard (604-594-5353) will be open 9 am to 4 pm. For health and safety reasons we will have minimal staffing in our office. If the line is busy, please leave a message or try calling back later.

Table officers’ roles, emails, and direct phone lines are available here:
https://www.surreyteachers.org/about-us/table-officers/

Members can also email general inquiries to sta@surreyteachers.org which will be directed to a table officer for an answer.

We anticipate that you will have many questions, and a lot of what is coming is completely new to us as well, so please be patient with us as we work to answer your questions.

Teachers and associated professionals will provide much-needed education, support, and stability to our students through these unprecedented times. Good luck with your work this week in this new world!

Finally, If you prefer to receiving your information directly from the STA, rather than via a staff rep or someone else, please send your email address to Stacy at repsupport@surreyteachers.org.

March 25, 2020

Message from STA President, Matt Westphal

Discussions have been taking place with the District about the return to work next week. We know that people’s most urgent concern is health and safety, and whether they will need to report to their work site on Monday. The STA’s strong position is that no STA members should be forced to report physically to their worksite, and that everyone should have the option to work remotely. The Board needs to be consulted first, but the District committed to communicating with employees on this issue by the end fo the day tomorrow. We will share more information as it becomes available

March 21, 2020

Message from STA President, Matt Westphal

As you know, schools will be closed to students on March 30, but we will be expected to return to work in some form. There are still many unanswered questions at this point. The BCTF has been working closely with BCPSEA and the Ministry of Education, and the STA has been in contact with the school district. Safety is, of course, paramount, so the union has been pushing for people to be able to work remotely, rather than having to report physically to their work sites. We know there are also many questions about how people will continue to perform their work, and also about whether TTOCs will have any options available to them other than Employment Insurance.

Please note that no one—including your employer—expects you to be working over the break to create online versions of your courses. Plans about “continuity of learning” are still being made, so we caution against putting too much effort in before we know what that will look like.

Below are the questions the STA has raised with the school district. We have not yet received answers, but will share more information as we receive it.

In the meantime, please do what you can to stay safe.

Questions the STA has raised with Human Resources

    Return to work
    Preliminary communications suggest that teachers will be returning to work. The most prudent option, to avoid the risk of exposure, would be for people not to report to their work site (particularly the larger sites, but really, for all sites). Some employees are in high-risk categories, or are caring for people who are. That raises a number of questions about safety:

    1. Are schools being cleaned over Spring Break?
    2. Must everyone report to work in person, or will there be options to work from home?
    3. What options are available for employees who do not consider it safe for them to report physically to their work site?
    4. If pregnant employees cannot safety work as a result of the virus, what will happen? (Our view is that they should not be required to start a maternity leave early in such circumstances.)
    5. In light of the indefinite closure, what will be expected of employees who are in self-isolation or quarantine, in the following categories:
    1. Self-isolation as a result of exposure in Canada
    2. Self-isolation as a result of travel to a destination for which there was no travel advisory at the time of departure
    3. Self-isolation as a result of travel to a destination for which there was a travel advisory at the time of depature
    4. Quarantine flowing from any of the scenarios a) to c)


    Child Care
    We know that there are concerns about ensuring that health care workers will have child care so that they can continue to work. Many teachers have young children, so child care is a serious concern for them as well.

    1. What will be happening with daycares operating in schools?
    2. Will further provision be made to expand child care in schools?
    3. What will employees do who no longer have daycare available for their own children? Can they bring their own children to school, if they are required to be on site?


    Leaves

    1. What happens to people currently on pregnancy and parental leaves who are scheduled to return at the end of the school year?
    2. Can people currently on unpaid leaves through the end of the school year return early from such leaves?


    Special categories of employee

    1. What will PTOCs be doing on March 30? As contract teachers, they should be treated in the same fashion as other contract teachers.
    2. When will TTOCs get Records of Employment? I have heard that people have been told March 23.
    3. What about employees who have contracts but also TTOC? For example, some people have part-time assignments and TTOC on other days. Or some contract teachers are on full leave (e.g. professional growth leave) but working part of the time as TTOCs. Normally people in such positions would not be eligible for EI, but the rules for EI are in flux as the federal government seeks to support workers. Will ROEs be issued for them?
    4. In light of the indefinite closure of schools, and the closure of the US border to non-essential traffic, would teachers living in the United States be able to work remotely?


    Work Expectations
    Our understanding from the BCTF is that contract teachers will continue to be paid. Can you confirm that this is the case, and whether that will continue to the end of the school year?

    1. What will be the expectations regarding “continuous learning opportunities”?
    2. How will professional autonomy be accommodated in teachers’ work?
    3. Will there be an expectation of providing students with work packages, or delivering education online?
    4. What work will associated professionals (School Psychologists, Speech and Language Pathologists, Social Workers) be expected to do on March 30?
    5. What mechanisms can be put in place to avoid a massive duplication of effort among teachers?
    6. Will staff be expected to use their own technology to perform their work, and what assistance will be in place for those who cannot?


    STA-HR Issues

    1. How will we do the work we need to do together, such as grievance and investigation meetings?
    2. What will happen with various deadlines under the collective agreement under these extraordinary circumstances?
    3. How will schools adapt their processes for staffing and school planning (e.g. consultation with School Staff Committees under Article E.26, or internal reassignments, or school organizations which would normally involve extensive discussion among staff)?
    4. Will the transfer rounds continue as scheduled and, if so, what changes (e.g. interviews by Skype, etc.) need to be made to keep it safe?
    5. Will remedy still accrue?


    Miscellaneous

      1. What about our EA’s and other CUPE staff? Will they get paid as well? (Although that is a matter for CUPE to address on behalf of its members, STA members are concerned for their colleagues.)
      2. What will the District be doing to explain to students what will be happening with schools? What is needed is a child-friendly and child-centred PSA to help them understand what is going on.