Read our latest updates related to COVID-19.
Last updated: August 26, 2021 at 2:47 pm

August 26, 2021

The Minister of Education has announced the safety guidelines for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The key document for schools is the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings:

There is also a document produced by the BC Centre for Disease control: Public Health Communicable Disease Guidance for K-12 Schools:, please note that the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings supersedes the BCCDC document if there is a conflict.

We encourage everyone who can be vaccinated to do so if they have not already. For information about getting a vaccination, please go to the Vax for BC website:

April 15, 2021

After the vaccine

We have had reports of teachers who were vaccinated and then got Covid. To keep safe, we need to follow the Covid after-care information below:

It will take about two weeks after getting the first dose to build immunity to the virus. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 before or during this time, you may not yet be fully protected, so you can still get COVID-19.


  • The vaccine will NOT cause or give you COVID-19.
  • Symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough or other problems breathing are NOT side effects of the vaccine.
  • If you experience ANY symptoms of COVID-19, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool

Thankfully most Surrey teachers have now received the first dose.

After you have been vaccinated you should:

Continue to follow Public Health Guidelines

  • Maintain physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet)
  • Clean your hands regularly
  • Wear a mask
  • Follow Public Health precautions and restrictions

Helpful links: 

April 7, 2021

Vaccinations update

The District’s vaccination plan has focused on all school-based staff (including teachers, support staff, and school admin) and active TTOCs (and spareboard CUPE staff). In other words, vaccinations have gone first to those who work directly and consistently with students. If this is you and you have not yet been vaccinated, contact your principal who will work with the Assistant Superintendent in your area to get you vaccinated.

The next phase of the vaccination plan, which has not yet been revealed, will include staff not yet vaccinated: teachers and TTOCs on leave, directors, senior management, district principals, non-school clerical, grounds and maintenance, helping teachers, STA officers etc. Although Fraser Health would like to have all Surrey staff vaccinated as soon as possible, there is also urgency in getting school-based staff in other districts vaccinated. We will share more info as we have it.

Concerns about Covid-19 and variants of the virus

The latest numbers of cases in our district reflect the continuing rise in Covid numbers in Fraser Health. Since last Thursday (as of April 7) we have been notified of the following:

  • 55 Early Notification letters issued at 38 different schools
  • Variants of Concern notifications at 4 different schools
  • 4 Entire Elementary Classes in self-isolation at 4 different schools
  • 116 Individual Elementary staff/students self-isolating at 22 schools
  • 5 Entire Secondary Classes in self-isolation at 2 schools
  • 92 Individual Secondary staff/students self-isolating at 14 schools

Even though most teachers have had their first vaccination shot and most students are wearing masks, we are not fully protected from the virus and need to continue implementing, as much as possible, distancing protocols in our classrooms. We can’t afford to become complacent. There should be a pool noodle distance between you and students (and colleagues) always. Handwashing and ventilation are still important. Remember to raise any concerns about increased risks for Covid exposure with school admin and your Health and Safety Committee. If you can, take your lessons outside. Here are some ideas for teaching outside.

April 1, 2021

One Year of COVID

One year ago this week we had to sign-up in order to go to our classrooms to pick up what we needed for the remote teaching adventure we were about to embark on. Remember climbing up that steep learning curve? Whew!

A year later, Surrey consistently has the highest numbers of Covid cases in BC as we learn to live and work in the hot zone of a pandemic. But, the good news is that, after seven months of persistent advocacy on multiple levels, not only have Surrey teachers been prioritized for vaccinations but we also now have a Grades 4-12 mask mandate as ordered by the Chief Medical Officer for Fraser Health.

Even though we now have a mask mandate for Grades 4-12, we continue to roll-out and promote our videos in many languages to appeal to parents to send their children to school with a mask, including those in K-3 for whom the mask mandate does not apply. You can check out all the videos in our YouTube channel, and soon we will be adding Russian, Farsi, Japanese and Greek! Please help promote the message of mask compliance with parents and through social media if you speak any of the languages used in the videos.

Just before Spring break we learned about Enhanced and Targeted Measures that the District must now implement. Each Health and Safety Committee needs to fully engage in discussions with school administration about how these measures are being implemented. It’s especially important that staff know how to bring concerns forward without fear. The facilitation of Enhanced and Targeted measures is fully within the purview of the H&S Committees.

As WorkSafeBC has confirmed, educators have the second highest number of approved claims which is why it’s crucially important that we fully follow the measures aimed at reducing the possibility of transmission between and among colleagues.

It’s been a hard slog for the past year and we may not all be feeling refreshed after spring break as we would be in the “Before Times” but we hope that being vaccinated and having a mask mandate along with the Enhanced and Targeted measures goes a long way to easing anxiety while we continue to do the best we can teaching during this historic pandemic.

Concern for AstraZeneca Risks and Reactions

We have heard from members who are experiencing significant post-vaccine symptoms after having received the AstraZeneca/Covishield Vaccine before March 28. In addition, we know that there is also the added worry of wondering whether the more serious side-effects (which led to its use being suspended for people under 55) will materialize, and the frustration that, within days, a different vaccine without these issues was provided to District staff.

We are sorry that many of you are having to deal with these issues. At the time this vaccine was administered, its use was permitted by public health authorities, and everyone (the Centre for Disease Control, Public Health Office, Fraser Health, SD36, and the union) was relying on that approval. Vaccinating Surrey school staff as soon as possible made sense to provide people with that added protection quickly, given their risk of exposure at work. Now that this vaccine has been suspended for people under 55, people who have received it should monitor themselves for symptoms of the more serious side-effects, and seek medical attention as appropriate.

People are naturally wondering what will happen next, particularly around their next dose. The simple answer is that we don’t know. Public health authorities and AstraZeneca are working on this issue, and should have it resolved by the time people would be due for a second shot. However, at this time we do not know what vaccine that would be, or whether they will have any choice in vaccine. As soon as we have information on this or other issues about the vaccine, we will share it with members.

March 3, 2021

We are continuing to advocate for more safety

This week and last week teachers at five schools (AHP Matthew, Maple Green, James Ardiel, Ecole Woodward Hill, and Harold Bishop) have independently organized #RedForBCEd walk-ins before the bell to express their solidarity with each other and their concern for safety as they are working in schools where a Covid-19 variant is known to have been detected. We have heard that some schools want to organize a similar walk-in next week. If you are planning one please let us know so we can support it! These events are a way to ensure that media and public attention remains focused on schools and the additional safety measures we need.

If you do hold a walk-in, please keep these things in mind:

  • Depending on your school site, you can walk around the nearby streets, or the school site itself.
  • Wear masks and keep a distance between each other (we don’t want it to undercut our message by appearing unsafe).
  • Remember that our message is directed at the provincial government, not at the school district.
  • Although curious students might want to join in, please gently say no, because we cannot be using students in our messaging.
  • Let your school admin know that it will be happening, since it’s always better if they are not caught by surprise.
  • Take photos and video, and share it with us or directly to Twitter and our Surrey Teachers Facebook group. Please tag @SurreyTeachers on Twitter if you post it there and use hashtags #bced #bcpoli and #RedForBCEd.

STA officers have also attended staff meetings where more cases of Covid-19 and instances of a variant have been announced. We continue to tell the story of our risky workplaces in the media and to advocate strongly. This week we continue to persist, meeting with the Superintendents of our district and with the Medical Health Officer from Fraser Health.

We also continue to promote mask wearing directly to parents; we just posted our latest ask for masks in Korean, with more languages coming. Thanks to Eunice Kim for your great work on that! So far we have English, Punjabi, Tagalog, Hindi, Mandarin, and Korean. Please help promote all our videos through your social media and with the parents of your students.

Self-isolation paid leave

This new leave was established February 1, 2021.

Starting February 1, 2021 – if you are directed to self-isolate AND you are asymptomatic:

  1. Talk to your Admin about work-from-home options
  2. If no work is available, go to ESS, log your absence using the new code: ‘self-isolation leave’.
  3. If your request for ‘self-isolation leave’ is not approved, contact the STA.

What if you had to self-isolate prior to February 1, 2021?

We are advocating for the employer to approve the ‘Self-Isolation Paid Leave’ to all members who were directed by the health authority to self-isolate and were not provided with work-from-home options.  If a member did not have any sick days, they would have had to take an unpaid leave of absence during their isolation period.

Please email the STA (to Dana at if you were in this situation prior to February 1, 2021:

  • You were directed by the health authority to self-isolate
  • You were asymptomatic (and did not develop Covid-19 illness during your isolation period)
  • Your Admin was not able to find a work-from-home option for you while on self-isolation
  • You had no sick days and had to take an UNPAID leave during your isolation period

February 25, 2021

Teaching in Surrey During a Pandemic

In light of the new guidelines dated February 4, 2021 from the British Columbia Center for Disease Control (BCCDC), we thought it would be helpful to teachers to provide this summary of what we have found to be the most common and useful directions for teachers.  Please contact Gavin Slade-Kerr, the STA Health and Safety Grievance Officer at if you have questions or concerns.

The new guidelines require students in secondary schools and staff in both secondary and elementary schools to wear masks at all times in schools, except when sitting at their desk, eating or drinking behind a barrier, or outside.

Masks continue to not be required for elementary students, but they are no longer “not recommended”, but rather there is a recognition that masks have a role to play in the prevention of the spread of covid.

The Surrey Teachers Association (STA) is encouraging masks to be worn by everyone at all times in schools.  They have prepared videos in many languages to be made available to parents and families to strengthen their use throughout Surrey Schools.

Latest Guidelines
The new guidelines are in a 33 page document but the “Executive Summary” outlines the following:

  1. Prevent crowding at all times; pay particular attention at the start and end of day.
  2. Avoid close face-to-face contact whenever possible.
  3. Assign staff to a specific cohort whenever possible.
  4. Stagger recess, lunch and class transition times whenever possible.
  5. Ensure that the use of masks does not reduce or replace practicing physical distancing and other prevention measures, for both students and staff.
  6. Ensure prevention measures are in place in staff-only areas, including break and meeting rooms.
  7. Implement music classes according to the British Columbia Music Educators’ Association and the Coalition for Music Education in British Columbia Guidance for Music Classes.
  8. Ensure physical activity is delivered in line with the guidance in this document.

Here is a link to the new guidelines:

New Variants
On February 19, 2021, Surrey received notice of exposures to new variants of the covid virus at Surrey Schools.  Following the direction of Fraser Health, classmates and teachers of confirmed cases of the new variant were ordered to get a covid test and isolate until they received their results.  Upon receiving a negative results, these individuals were allowed to return to schools.

Our present knowledge of the new variants is that the controls in schools do not need to change: the distance to keep from individuals outside your cohort, for example, does not need to increase.

Paid Leave
On February 1, 2021, the British Columbia Public School Employer Association (BCPSEA) announced that teachers from February 1 onward would be entitled to be paid when ordered to isolate by a public health authority.  This was a welcome announcement as teachers had previously been forced to use sick time or an unpaid leave when not able to continue to work from home.  Teachers may in some cases continue to be given the opportunity to work from home and should contact their principal to explore this possibility.  The District has been clear, however, that they do not regard direction by the covid self-evaluation app to isolate as direction from a health authority, and will not be applying the paid leave retroactively to teachers ordered to isolate before February 1, 2021.

Here are links to directions from BCPSEA.

If you contract Covid
If you have symptoms of covid, get a covid test.  If the test is positive, stay home and isolate following the directions of Fraser Health.  You should book an absence and use sick days.  If there is a possibility that you contracted covid at school, you should file a claim with WorksafeBC.   If WorksafeBC can link your case to an exposure at school, you are entitled to have most of your sick days reimbursed by WorksafeBC.  The exact amount of reimbursement will depend on your salary.  The district will use your sick days to cover time not covered by Worksafe BC such that you do not lose any salary.

Here is a link to a Form 6A for you to fill out if you get Covid:

Send the completed Form 6A to your principal, the district at District at, and the STA at  Your principal may be confused by the 6A as the District uses a different form, but this is the form BCTF members are to use.  You do not need to fill out both forms: the principal should use the 6A to complete the District form.

Finally, but most importantly, you need to call WorkSafeBC Claims Call Centre at 604.231.8888. If you don’t call, they don’t know about your claim.

If you have been denied a claim by WorkSafeBC when you have been diagnosed with COVID, please contact the STA at so we can advocate on your behalf.

School Health and Safety Committees
If you are concerned about how health and safety guidelines for covid are being followed at your school, you should contact your administrator. They are responsible for health and safety at your school. If they do not address the issue to your satisfaction, you should bring the issue to your school Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC). A JOHSC committee is required by law at every school. The JOHSC has a co-chair that is a teacher or CUPE member. If the JOHSC makes a recommendation, the administrator is required to give written reasons if they choose not to implement the recommendation. Further, the worker co-chair can ask WorksafeBC to get involved if a recommendation is not followed.

Here is a link to how health and safety committees work:

If you are on a paid or unpaid leave because of increased risk to you or a household member on contracting covid, the District has recently agreed that some positions could be taught from home as an accommodation.  We are presently in weekly discussions with the employer to consider individual cases.  You should contact Dana Neidig at to have your name brought forward.

We have been contacted by several members who have had a reaction to Clorox360, the substance in the electrostatic sprayer used to disinfect schools.  Symptoms include itchiness, rashes, vomiting, and shortness of breath.  If you are having this reaction, you should apply to the District for an accommodation to have another disinfecting process used in your workspace.

Here is a link to the District Medical Certificate in this situation.

If you miss work due to your reaction to Clorox, you need to fill out a Form 6A.  Here is a link to the Form 6A:

Send the completed Form 6A to your principal, the district at District at, and the STA at  Your principal may be confused by the 6A as the District uses a different form, but this is the form BCTF members are to use.  You do not need to fill out both forms: the principal should use the 6A to complete the District form.

Finally, but most importantly, you need to call WorkSafeBC Claims Call Centre at 604.231.8888. If you don’t call, they don’t know about your claim.

If you have been denied a claim by WorkSafeBC, please contact the STA at so we can advocate on your behalf.

It is the school administrator’s responsibility to assess if it is possible to implement a system whereby an employee doesn’t work across cohorts, or if they do, that they can maintain 2 metres from students.  Administrators must ensure that Joint Health and Safety Committee representatives are informed as assessments are conducted to allow for their involvement in the process.  Plexiglass barriers are approved for employees who:  a) work across cohorts, and  b) can’t maintain a 2-metre distance from their students or other adults in the room.   The money to pay for it comes from a school account, and it is the administrator who must formally give the approval by completing an online form.

The Surrey Schools Health and Safety group will inform purchasing about your request and then purchasing will contact the Principal or Vice Principal with ordering instructions.

Refusal of Unsafe Work
You may feel that covid has rendered a particular situation unsafe.  Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If you have reasonable cause to believe that performing a job or task puts you or someone else at risk, you must not perform the job or task. You must immediately notify your supervisor (your principal), who will then take the appropriate steps to determine if the work is unsafe and remedy the situation.

As a worker, you have the right to refuse to perform a specific job or task you believe is unsafe without being disciplined by your employer. Your employer or supervisor may temporarily assign a new task to you, at no loss in pay.

Step 1
Report the unsafe condition or procedure.  As a worker, you must immediately report the unsafe condition to a supervisor or employer.

Step 2
If a worker still views work as unsafe after a supervisor or employer has said it is safe to perform a job or task.  The supervisor must investigate the problem and ensure any unsafe condition is fixed. This investigation must take place in the presence of the worker and a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee or a worker chosen by the worker’s trade union.

Step 3
If a worker still views work as unsafe, notify WorkSafeBC.  A prevention officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution.

February 4, 2021

New Covid-19 Guidelines!

We are so glad to see some movement from the Ministry of Education and the Health Authorities on improving safety measures in schools. We know you will be seeing a lot of media on this today and soon will read many more details, but in short, here are our first reactions. We are glad for the slightly stronger mask mandate for middle and secondary schools. Unfortunately in Surrey, since we don’t have middle schools, that means Elementary is still not part of the new rules, so it ends up being inconsistent.  We are also glad to see additional guidance for physical health education and music classes that address key concerns and allow those classes to proceed in a safer manner. We are also in agreement that there needs to be a positive and inclusive approach to enforcement that focuses on prevention and not punitive or stigmatizing approaches. A key point is the  removal of the term “not recommended”  in the guidelines for elementary will make it easier for teachers and school staffs to encourage more mask wearing.

However we still have concerns, especially here in Surrey. First of all, we think younger children are also able to wear masks, so we would have liked to see a stronger mask message for Elementary. Also, the lack of action to reduce school and classroom density will not help staff and students maintain physical distancing. We also think it is problematic that the learning group cohort model has not changed and has proven to be a weak safety measure. Unfortunately there is a lack of clear directives to improve ventilation. And of great concern to many teachers, we are disappointed in the inaction on improving the contact tracing system to specifically include teachers.

Please take a look at the new guidelines in the government document.

January 28, 2021

STA Covid action Committee report

Our Covid action committee has embarked on a number of initiatives to try to make our members and schools safer during the pandemic. We are a group of teachers particularly concerned with keeping track of how the district and province is managing the pandemic response in the schools, and we make suggestions and proposals to the STA Executive and to the district as appropriate.

We are recommending that all members do what they can to actively promote mask wearing among our students in classrooms. We believe that if we are able to use our considerable skills and influence as teachers to establish a culture of mask wearing among our students and in our schools generally, we can make a difference to the progress of the virus here. Even a modest percentage increase in mask wearing may save lives. Please do what you can.

We have written to Honorable Jennifer Whiteside, minister of Education, with a further letter outlining our concerns.

We are pleased to report that our project to produce a series of videos in various languages aimed at the parents and community to encourage mask use is progressing well, and we are thrilled that so many amazing Surrey teachers have stepped up to share their language skills. We plan to roll them out next week, and we will rely on our members to help spread these on social media in various language speaking communities. DPAC will also be helping us get the word out.

We are particularly concerned about the arrival of new variants of the Covid 19 virus, which gives impetus to the push for normalizing mask wearing in all spaces in our schools. We understand that 3-layer masks offer more protection, and are available through the district. (see below)

We are concerned about the impact of this pandemic (and all the stressful changes we have had to adapt to in the schools) on our members’ mental health. This along with other specific concerns we are looking forward to bringing to Superintendent Jordan Tinney who will be meeting with our committee.

STA Ad Hoc Covid Action Committee members are: Adilah Abdirahman, Isaac Louie, (co-chairs), Julia MacRae, Lisa Davis, Stephen Dawson, Lizanne Foster, Philip Wong, Mary Mulleady, Carrie Gabriele, and Gretta Heintz.

January 14, 2021

STA Ad Hoc Covid Action Committee Formed

Thank you to the 10 people who put their names forward to help us advocate for needed safety improvements during the pandemic. The committee met Wednesday for the first time and is working on ways to get our voices heard more effectively. Stay tuned!

January 8, 2021

Meeting with the Ministers December 17

We were very pleased to have an hour-long meeting with the new Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside and the Minister of Labour, Hon. Harry Bains and their staff people. Representing you were Matt Westphal, President, Julia MacRae 1st VP,Jatinder Bir 2nd VP, Gavin Slade-Kerr, Health and Safety officer, Lizanne Foster (from her portable), and Lisa Davis (in the lab coat, coming from her lab-classroom!), all Surrey teachers. We think it was the first time any BC Education Minister has met directly with our local. We explained the concerns we have about the impossibility of physical distancing in our classrooms, the need for a mask mandate for schools, contact tracing delays and confusion, community concerns about transmission, and even touched on the FSAs. It seemed like they took note of our concerns. We hope that our efforts help bring about the changes we need. We continue to follow up.

Mask mandate? It may be up to us

After the meeting with the ministers, we debriefed the meeting and had to admit to ourselves that perhaps we have written all the letters and advocated with all the people who we can think of that could and should implement a Surrey schools own mask mandate to keep us safer. We have written to Dr. Bonnie Henry (open letter, which generated a lot of media, but no response) Our School Board Chair Laurie Larsen (response but no action), we have met numerous times with senior management, and we have met with Fraser Health officials. We will continue to pursue advocacy and lobbying, but we are also going to do all we can to implement a mask mandate ourselves in our schools. We will be developing a plan to communicate directly with Surrey parents and community members in various languages to ask for their cooperation. We have recruited an ad hoc Covid action committee of Surrey Teachers who will plan and implement this and other actions. We will make our schools safer with mask wearing and we may save lives doing so.

December 16, 2020

WorksafeBC and Covid

If you are diagnosed with COVID, make sure you fill out a Form 6A for the time you are sick to be covered by WorksafeBC.  Send the completed Form 6A to your principal, the district at District at, and the STA at  Your principal may be confused by the 6A as the District uses a different form, but this is the form BCTF members are to use.  You do not need to fill out both forms: the principal should use the 6A to complete the District form.

Finally, but most importantly, you need to call WorkSafeBC Claims Call Centre at 604.231.8888. If you don’t call, they don’t know about your claim.

If you have been denied a claim by WorkSafeBC when you have been diagnosed with COVID, please contact the STA at so we can advocate on your behalf.


Members continue to contact the STA regarding Plexiglass. We have filed a troubleshooter application with the Labour Relations Board and are pleased to see that the District is encouraging teachers who regularly have to work within 2m of students to apply for Plexiglass in this week’s Weekly Memo. This assessment of the need for Plexiglass is the responsibility of the school administrator. The criteria for this include an exposure to multiple cohorts and the inability to maintain a 2m distance through administrative or other physical barrier means or a documented medical need. Details on the process for assessing and requesting are linked here. Please contact your Principal or Vice-Principal directly with your initial requests and then reference the linked document together to assess and determine next steps. Contact Gavin Slade-Kerr at if you have questions or concerns.

December 9, 2020

Masks and Shields from your union

As you know, we have purchased masks and shields, and each STA member is entitled to one STA mask, one STA shield, and one BCTF mask. While we currently do not have any additional STA masks, we have (finally) received a large shipment of BCTF masks, which are similar to the STA ones. Some of these masks have already been distributed. If you or your colleagues have not yet received your BCTF masks, please submit your name, school, number of masks required and courier number to We have just enough for every member to receive one mask, so if you have already received yours, please refrain from requesting more.

Ad Hoc Covid 19 Action Committee needs members

The STA Executive Committee struck an action committee to address concerns about Covid. If you are particularly energized into action by the problems we face as teachers in this pandemic, please submit your name to be appointed to this committee. Please submit your name and CV form to Stamata at to be appointed to this committee.

December 4, 2020

Newton Elementary Closed

As you all know, a second Elementary school has been closed due to a Covid outbreak. The school had 16 positive cases associated with it and a cohort sent into self-isolation before the closure was announced. We learned that if there are various self-monitoring letters in a school site, it is an indication that Fraser Health and the district is watching a site very closely. What it boils down to is if they can’t rule out transmission taking place between cohorts in the school, they consider closing to get it under control.

STA members in closed schools will be paid while in self isolation, because they will still be working, albeit remotely. If they are sick, they will be able to use sick days, of course, and if they don’t have any left, they would be eligible for SIP. Please contact us at the STA for support in that process if necessary. Members who are itinerant teachers, teachers who work at more than that site or TTOCs who have to self-isolate also need to continue being paid. Please contact us at the STA to help you follow up if you are experiencing difficulties in this regard.

The entire process of closing cohorts, self -solation, and switching to remote teaching and learning is extremely disruptive. Self-isolation means you have to stay home, get others to bring you groceries or medications etc., and to be isolated even within the home. Since teachers who are required to self-isolate can’t go to the school building, if they need something from their school the district will help retrieve it, including if it is at another site where you work.

November 27, 2020

There continue to be more exposures, more staff meetings, and more letters to parents. Table officers have been attending as many staff notification meetings as possible over the last several weeks. Lately there have been days when we can’t simultaneously be at all the meetings that are happening, unfortunately. It has been interesting to see the differences between staffs, administrations, and how the message from the district and Fraser Health is evolving. Some staffs have tons of questions and most listen to the information quietly. The health information is being refined, and your questions help in this process.

As you know the BCTF is urging a mask mandate, and frankly, our district’s leadership is all for it. All of us in BC’s Covid epicenter (Surrey) want to make mask wearing normal, and all of us together, teachers and administrators, could do it, despite the lack of specific Provincial Health orders. Of course we don’t recommend you engage in some sort of battle with your students or the parents. And we must be sensitive to students and adults who, for medical reasons, cannot wear masks. But modeling is powerful, telling the story of why prevention is important is powerful, and encouraging as much as possible is important.

Also, all meetings among adults should be virtual. School Based Team, Staff Committee, School union meetings, Staff meetings, Department Head Meetings are all important, but not more than our health. Please insist that they be held over teams or Zoom.

At last week’s General Meeting members charged the STA Leadership with pressing four demands – a mask mandate, reduced classroom density, accommodations for members who are immunocompromised and reopening the remote learning opportunities. These are things we have been advocating for months with MLAs and senior district staff, and so our next steps are to continue that advocacy and request a meeting with trustees as well. There’s a role for you in the schools too! If we all post the BCTF’s mask poster in our rooms, that also makes our ask visible. ASK for the MASK!

NB: TTOCs and Other STA Members 
Schools with an exposure will not need to contact staff directly unless requested to by the District. As such, we remind TTOCs and other itinerant staff to follow the “Checklist for multiple site staff” and check the Fraser Health webpage to be informed of exposures.

In case of school closure or need to self isolate:

Cambridge Elementary’s experience last week helped us learn – and their rep recommends to us to remind teachers to bring their devices and chargers home daily and ensuring that you and your students have access to technology to support home learning. You may not be able to return to the school to get what you need.

November 19, 2020

Covid outbreak = Cambridge Elementary closed. Be ready in case your school is next.

Surrey and Fraser Health are all over the news this week because of the closure of Cambridge Elementary with an outbreak of Covid. The staff and students (and itinerant teachers, TTOCs etc.) are all in self isolation for 14 days starting Nov 14th, and all are required to have Covid tests. They are not to leave their homes, and must order in groceries, cancel any appointments, etc. We are really relieved that the situation at Cambridge was finally addressed by Fraser Health, and hope the tests show that the outbreak was not extensive. We are also very concerned for the health of the school community, especially for one teacher who is sick with Covid and in the hospital.

These dramatic developments reminded us that Fraser Health has the power to shut down sites, and will do so if needed, so we teachers need to put our minds to being ready to switch gears if it becomes necessary to shift to remote teaching and learning.  Of course it is the District’s responsibility to communicate with you about a closure if it happens, and to make a plan about how to get a remote option up and running, but there are steps we as professionals can take to make this possible scenario a little easier on ourselves.

Are you prepared and taking precautions?

There are also many questions to consider if we want to be prepared while teaching in a pandemic. If your class was told to self-isolate, would you and your students be prepared?

  • Has your admin provided any direction on what to do to prepare?
  • Have your students all logged into Teams and have their username and password memorized or written somewhere safe?
  • Do you know which students would need access to technology from school to support home learning?
  • Do you have access to your unit and day plans from home? (a document or photo of paper plans)
  • Do you bring your laptop home with you?
  • If you need assistance with any of these points, consult your school admin.

Stay home when sick, even with mild symptoms!

We urge all members to remain vigilant and maintain healthy habits to protect yourselves and your colleagues. Do not report to work if you are sick, even with mild symptoms of a cold. Try to minimize your interaction with colleagues and try to avoid circulating around your school as much as possible. If possible, avoid the staff room, mail room, photocopy room, office, library, etc. Be vigilant with mask wearing and hand washing.  Your health is important to your students, to us, and to the district, but even more, it is important for your family and loved ones. Take care of yourselves and help protect all of us.

If you are required to self-isolate, push to be working from home

With teachers being told to self-isolate with possible Covid exposure or awaiting Covid test results, it is important that we are still paid. There are various scenarios, among them:

  • If your cohort is also isolating, presumably you will keep on teaching remotely and will therefore be working.
  • If you are sick, use sick days, and if you have none left, contact us to help you file a claim with WorkSafeBC and access Salary Indemnity Plan benefits through the BCTF.
  • If you are not sick but are required to isolate, we hope you will be able to work from home.  Be sure to ask your principal if you can work remotely, either teaching remotely or doing some other tasks. Suggest work you could do from home. For example some ISTs are able to complete IEPs whilst isolated. Other teachers are able to support teachers remotely, for example, by reviewing certain online resources for their colleagues.

We believe the more people able to continue working from home when they have to self-isolate, the better. Contact us for support, and also to tell us what work you are doing remotely!

November 12, 2020

Continuing Covid Concerns

Obviously the rising rate of positivity for Covid in our health region is alarming, and it looks like there is now exponential growth in cases. We are certainly seeing lots of exposures in schools, and although we are told there isn’t much transmission in the schools, it is hard to believe there is none. We attend morning staff meetings, where many staffs have fearful questions about their own risk. We will be discussing Covid risk at our general meeting, so please feel invited. Remember to monitor yourself for symptoms, even mild ones, and report concerns to your Health & Safety Committee by email.

October 2, 2020

We are working hard to bring forward concerns from Surrey teachers to district administrators and to Fraser Health. There are schools where teachers feel relatively safe now that we have settled into daily routines, and there are schools where teachers continue to be alarmed and anxious, given continued exposure notices and many unanswered questions.

One concern involves contact tracing, and whether teachers will be informed if students in their classes test positive. Both the BCTF provincially, and the STA locally, have called for teachers to be contacted by public health authorities when students test positive, to ensure that the contact tracing process is accurate. These discussions continue.

We are meeting regularly with District personnel on a range of health and safety issues. As you will see below, Gavin Slade-Kerr, our Health and Safety Officer, has been asking the questions and providing answers to members each week in this memo. We will continue advocating forcefully and seeking needed changes for the health and safety of our members during this time.

September 14, 2020

Smoke Impacts and Teacher Health

A reminder to STA members to look after your health, which may be affected by the poor air quality we are facing due to smoke conditions. If you are at work and are not feeling well enough to be there, you must first inform your supervisor and make arrangements to go home. If you are feeling ill before school tomorrow you should book a sick day.  We need to be especially careful with respiratory symptoms because of COVID19.  Remember that you are required to do a self-Health Check every day and if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID19 (see below) you need to stay home.

The BCCDC (on September 14, 2020) states that the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever (see below)
  • Chills
  • Cough or worsening of chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches

While less common, symptoms can also include:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Dizziness, confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rashes or discoloration of fingers or toes.

 Average normal body temperature taken orally is about 37°C. For more on normal body temperature and fevers, see HealthLinkBC’s information for children age 11 and younger and for people age 12 and older. Infants less than three months of age who have a fever should be assessed by a health care provider.

September 9, 2020

Health and Safety Update

Here are links to the 3 documents providing direction on health and safety protocols for schools, as well as information on how these principles and guidelines will be implemented at the school level:

What to do if something is not right? Who do you call upon when you see a health and safety concern? Please remember that our best path to advocate is through bringing our concerns to the attention of our administrators. If you have a Health and Safety concern, notify your principal first. The school-based Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee is the most powerful tool we have to address health and safety concerns at school. However, if you see or experience a health and safety issue or concern, the first step is to notify the Principal or Vice Principal for an immediate solution. If there is no resolution to your issue, the JOHS will meet to determine solutions. They are tasked with ensuring the health and safety of all workers in a workplace. Health and Safety Committees have official processes to make sure complaints are dealt with. Posting your concerns on social media may raise awareness but it is not a step towards solving the problem, so please inform your supervisor in an email with details!

We know that many of our members are feeling stunned, numbed, or overwhelmed with the return to school. You may be feeling concerned but having trouble determining how to respond. Here are four simple steps that might help you:

  1. Are you feeling safe in your teaching? If not, what specifically is the concern? Physical distancing? Air quality? Cleaning agents? Begin an email.
  2. What could help you feel safe? Plexiglass? A fan? More information? Add to the email with a request.
  3. Send your email to your administrator.
  4. If your administrator has solved the problem and you feel safe, great! If not, forward their response (or your email if there is no response) to the joint H&S committee at your school. If you don’t know who that is, send it to your administrator and ask them to bring it to the next meeting of the joint H&S committee.

These steps may help guide your actions and will definitely help your joint health and safety committee determine the needs of the school. You can also email the STA Health and Safety Officer, Gavin Slade-Kerr, at with your questions and concerns.

H&S Committees STA online forums
We know H&S committee members have lots of pressure on them right now to answer questions and delve into issues being presented to them. Please feel invited to register and attend one of our upcoming H&S committee forums where you can hear information about processes, and also hear
about what is going on in other schools.

Elementary H&S Forum: Wednesday, September 16, 3:30-4:30

Secondary and all others H&S Forum: Thursday, September 17, 3:30-4:30

The forums will focus on membership requirements and responsibilities for the joint H&S committees, as well as suggestions for procedures of these committees during the covid pandemic.

Masks and Shields
You will be provided by the District with two face masks and face shields will be available upon request. The advice from the Provincial Health Officer is to wear masks if physical distancing is not possible, but it is the right of all members to wear PPE at any time.

You may bring your own PPE if you prefer. You can recommend that your students wear PPE even if physical distancing, but it is not mandatory for them to wear masks in classrooms at this time. All adults in elementary and secondary schools are required to wear masks in crowded hallways. We recommend that masks be worn at all times in hallways. Hallways in Surrey Schools are often less than two metres wide, making physical distancing difficult, if not impossible. Even if the hallway is empty, you never know if someone’s coming around the corner, possibly a whole class! Not wearing a mask in the hallway also puts other staff in the position of perhaps having to remind colleagues to wear masks, which can lead to conflict.

Transparent Barriers
If teachers are working on a regular basis within 2m of students (such as counsellors in a small office), the District is first required to try to find an alternative space to work. If none is available, the District must explore the possibility of remote teaching (calendar changes meetings with counsellors, for example) or transparent barriers. Only after these alternatives have been explored are teachers required to wear masks. If you feel you need a transparent barrier, talk to your administrator. The district has told administrators seeking plexiglass for their schools to contact Nancy Johnston in District Facilities. If you are not approved for plexiglass, the District Health and Safety Department has approved teachers bringing in their own transparent barriers, should you wish to do so. Make sure any transparent barriers you bring in will not harm anyone (by falling on a student, for example).

September 3, 2020

Health and Safety Update

With the implementation of stage 2 for the fall term of 2020, there are many new health and safety protocols to address the covid pandemic. Here are some of the highlights, as of Sept. 1st:

Your school’s joint health and safety committee will be attending a half day of training on September 3rd, 2020. They will then be presenting a training session to the staff of your school on September 8th and 9th. Students are not attending on those two days, and then are only attending for an hour each day on September 10th and 11th. Principals have been asked to ensure that those teachers who were not present for the training are given sufficient time to review the training documents on September 10th and 11th.

Physical Distancing
A physical distance of 2m is to be maintained between everyone where possible. Physical Distancing of 2m from each other is not required of staff and students within a cohort. Cohorts are 60 people in elementary and 120 in secondary, though the District is considering secondary cohorts to be 30 people in any given quarter.

Staff Meetings
Large gatherings at schools, including staff meetings, should be held virtually where possible. This is important, as the virus is primarily passed between adults. If an administrator insists a meeting should be in person, please contact us for support.

Elementary schools will be disinfected once per day, secondary schools twice per day. High touch surfaces will be cleaned an additional time each day.

Refusal of Unsafe Work
If you feel that you are being asked to do work that is unsafe, you have the right to refuse. The first step is to tell your immediate supervisor. They may be able to take steps that result in you now feeling the work is safe. If not, the next step is for the supervisor to investigate and take steps involving a worker member of the school’s health and safety committee. If they are unable to make changes that result in you feeling the work is safe, the next step is to bring in a Prevention Officer from WorksafeBC. Please contact the STA if you have refused unsafe work so that we can support you.

Masks are required to be worn in high traffic areas by staff in elementary schools and by staff and students in secondary schools. Where physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible when interacting outside your cohort, masks are required of all staff, both elementary and secondary, and secondary students.

Masks work best when worn consistently and by as many people as possible, because they don’t protect the wearers from the virus; rather, the wearers don’t unwittingly spread virus as easily while wearing one. We have STA branded reusable masks and face shields coming in, and want to distribute them to members. Staff reps, please check your emails for instructions, and TTOCs, we will be arranging a plan for distribution to you, please stay tuned to your TTOC rep’s email.

Creating a 2-metre Buffer
Teachers are encouraged to use materials at their school, such as tables, to create a space of 2m from their students where physical distancing is required. It is also important to have this space for teachers from outside the cohort (e.g. TTOCs, Core Music and French at elementary, etc.) who will be working with your students. Teachers who choose to obtain their own barriers are permitted to bring them in, but can also ask for an assessment from Nancy Johnston, Health and Safety Officer, Human Resources Department, to determine whether such a barrier would be provided by the employer.

COVID-19-Related Accommodations

As you may know, because of the serious threat the pandemic poses to health, the STA has been advocating for months for members with pre-existing health conditions or family members who are immunocompromised to have accommodations to work remotely from home. Many of these requests
were unofficially permitted in June, given how few students were attending school. However, HR has approved very few, if any, requests to work remotely from home for September, due to the Ministry’s directive that all students must return to schools in the fall, as this directly affects the operational needs at each site. The advent of the blended transition model could create some opportunities for accommodations, but please note that it does still require working face-to-face with students. The District is not currently envisioning having teachers work from home. Given how new this program is, we are still discussing with HR how it could affect accommodations.

We understand that receiving a letter of non-approval is upsetting. HR has permitted the use of sick days to cover absences for those members who are concerned with attending the school site during this pandemic, and they have also approved unpaid leaves without penalty for the duration of this school year, to June 2021. These are adjustments that may make a difference for some members, but will not work for everyone. If your request for an accommodation to work remotely from home has not been approved, please email us at with details, as the BCTF is collecting this data to advocate for members at the Ministry level.

This is the process to request a Covid19-related accommodation:

  1. Fill out the COVID19-RELATED ACCOMMODATION REQUEST form – located on the website – sign in and search ‘health services Covid19 page’.
  2. HR requires your physician to support this request by completing the DISTRICT MEDICAL CERTIFICATE-ACCOMMODATION form and submitting to Health Services. Remember to keep a copy of this form for your own records.
  3. If Health Services requires further information, they will contact you directly.
  4. You will receive an email response to your accommodation request.
  5. If your request is NOT approved, please email us at

September 1, 2020

Notice from the STA

With the implementation of stage 2 for the fall term of 2020, there are many new health and safety protocols to address the covid pandemic.  Here are some of the highlights:

Your school’s joint health and safety committee will be attending a half day of training on September 3rd, 2020.  They will then be presenting a training session to the staff of your school on September 8th and 9th.  Students are not attending on those two days, and then are only attending for an hour each day on September 10th and 11th.  Principals have been asked to ensure that those teachers who were not present for the training are given sufficient time to review the training documents on September 10th and 11th .

Physical Distancing
Physical Distancing of 2m from each other is not required of staff and students within a cohort.  Cohorts are 60 people in elementary and 120 in secondary.   In all other situations, physical distancing is required where possible.

Staff Meetings
Large gatherings at schools, including staff meetings, should be held virtually where possible.

Masks are required to be worn in all high traffic areas in secondary schools by staff and students and in elementary schools by staff.  Where physical distancing of 2m is not possible when interacting outside your cohort, masks are required of all staff, both elementary and secondary, and secondary students.

Elementary schools will be disinfected once per day, secondary schools twice per day.  In addition, high touch surfaces will be cleaned an additional time each day.

Refusal of Unsafe Work
If you feel that you are being asked to do work that is unsafe, you have the right to refuse.  The first step is to tell your immediate supervisor.  They may be able to take steps that result in you now feeling the work is safe.  If not, the next step is for the supervisor to investigate and take steps involving a worker member of the school’s health and safety committee.  If they are unable to make changes that result in you feeling the work is safe, the next step is to bring in a Prevention Officer from WorksafeBC.  Please contact the STA if you have refused unsafe work so that we can support you.

The government is continuing to refine health and safety requirements at schools in response to covid.  You can find the latest requirements here.

April 6, 2020

Message from STA President, Matt Westphal

The Ministry of Education prepared a framework document for how learning is to continue while students are not physically in school. As that document is 45 pages long, the BCTF has prepared the following summary, which we hope teachers will find helpful.

Summary from BCTF President, Teri Mooring

The Ministry released a framework document entitled Supporting The K–12 Education Response to COVID-19 on March 27, 2020. The BCTF had input into the development of the document. It contains information about the decisions that have been made thus far for K–12 education in BC in the context of a provincial state of emergency. This document provides a framework for districts using the guiding principles that the province has developed. Local Presidents are using this document to work collaboratively with districts, so decisions are made to ensure the safety of everyone, using the best health information available under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Co-ordinated advocacy at all levels
K–12 Education Partners are working together to figure out how we can contribute to continuity of learning opportunities, while keeping everyone healthy and safe. Representatives of teachers, support workers, principals and vice-principals, superintendents, trustees, and the Ministry of Education are in constant communication. I am in close contact with the Ministry of Education, the BC Public Schools Employers’ Association, and the BC Schools Superintendents Association and discuss emerging issues with them several times a day.

The BCTF also has representatives who sit on Ministry of Education committees in order to inform Continuity of Learning Opportunities. BCTF participation has helped to shape the Integrated Planning Framework issued by the Ministry to districts. While we do not agree with everything in the Framework, overall the direction the Province has taken is conducive to ensuring health and safety.

Locals are key stakeholders for consultation
The Ministry of Education has emphasized to school boards that our locals are key stakeholders and must be consulted with early and often and has directed districts to ensure that BCTF locals are included in district stakeholder advisory teams. The BCTF is supporting locals by providing ongoing, intensive support from BCTF Field Service Admin Staff, the Executive Committee, and holding frequent conference calls with locals to keep them updated on emerging information. I know many Local Presidents have worked long hours throughout Spring Break in order to ensure that the BCTF has the information it needs to carry out this advocacy and to ensure that districts are attending to health and safety.

The Ministry has also directed boards to work with medical health officers to ensure that schools are safe.

Guiding Principle 1: Health and safety is everyone’s number one priority
We have emphasized to government that we need to go slow because we mustn’t accidentally undermine the critical public health measures that necessitated suspension of in-class instruction. We have also highlighted that the employer has a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe and healthy. We all have a responsibility to socially distance ourselves from others, including our coworkers.

The government has a set of guiding principles to inform K–12 during this time, and their number one priority is to “ensure a healthy and safe environment for all students, families and employees.”

This means:

  • not all teachers need to immediately report to the worksite. If you have a health condition which makes you vulnerable (including pregnancy) or are caring for someone in a vulnerable category, if you are self-isolating, if you have young children and no childcare, or if there are other circumstances which interfere with your ability to report to the worksite.
  • some locations will have staggered work schedules and limited building access.
  • some workspace arrangements (e.g., shared prep office) will need to be changed in order to ensure social distancing.
  • If you are ill, please do not come to work.

The BC Centre for Disease Control and Ministry of Health have issued advice to districts on the operation of schools. The Provincial Health Officer has provided a great deal of public education on what social distancing means. If teachers are concerned that their work arrangement does not meet the requirements of social distancing, please encourage them to contact their Staff Rep and/or the local office.

Guiding Principle 2: Providing the services needed to support children of our essential workers
During this unusual time, some teachers will be providing care to children of essential workers. This is for children ages 5–12. In some cases, care for children 0–5 will continue in schools, however, teachers will not be responsible for those children.

In the immediate future this means that some children of hospital workers in regions which have a high concentration of cases will be attending school sites. In some places this is already happening, and districts have been working with health authorities in order to ensure health and safety.

Over the next few weeks additional children will be provided with care. We are urging districts to do this slowly and carefully in collaboration with the Local President. It is possible to fulfil this need in a way that does not jeopardize health and safety or increase the spread of COVID. In some places, CUPE workers and outside childcare providers will be providing this service. In other places, volunteer teachers and TTOCs are doing this work as well. Districts have been encouraged to plan around hospital shifts, which means that the hours of care will be broader than instructional hours, generally 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Before and after school care may be provided by outside childcare providers, in order to provide care from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., five days a week. This is an important service schools are serving to ensure hospitals in the province are well staffed and able to support those who are the sickest due to COVID-19.

Guiding Principle 3: Support vulnerable students who may need special assistance
As teachers, we know that schools provide a broad range of support to students, such as providing meals and health services such as occupational services. Work is underway to ensure that these services continue in a way that ensures the health and safety of all. As time goes on, districts are looking at ways to ensure that non-enrolling teachers can continue to provide additional services to vulnerable students.

The Ministry has directed districts with meal programs to work with health authorities in order to ensure health and safety.

During this time, students need to know that they are valued and that they are still part of a school community. Students’ sense of well-being may continue to shift as the pandemic evolves. Schools and school districts should keep in mind that students who were not considered vulnerable prior to the COVID-19 outbreak may now be experiencing mental health challenges.

Specialist teachers, educational assistants, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and others who support vulnerable students will continue to have a role to play in students’ lives.

Guiding Principle 4: Provide continuity of educational opportunities for all students
The initial phase of continuity of educational opportunities is a need assessment. Teachers will work with principals in order to determine how to do this. In many places it will likely involve teachers phoning families in order to begin a conversation around what resources the family has available, you have likely already begun this work. Teachers will use their professional skillsets in order to compassionately assess the ability of students and families to support learning. During normal times teachers provide students with social and emotional support, and during this time social and emotional support will make an incredible difference in the lives of students. Schools may be closed, but teachers’ hearts are open.

The Ministry has communicated to districts that teachers will use their professional judgement in determining how to communicate with students. Everyone understands that it is unrealistic to expect that teachers will simply switch to online delivery.

The Ministry has stated that some teachers will connect with their students in a primarily online environment. Others will use strategies that utilize more traditional resources. Educators everywhere will need to be sensitive to the fact that not all students have regular (or any) access to technology, so allowances should be made for “low tech” ways for students to engage in learning experiences.

We caution members against using personal devices for work and against rapidly adopting new platforms without adequate training and administrative support.

Distributed Learning
There has been a surge in applications of new DL enrollments, however, the Ministry has halted DL enrollment. Given that students no longer have access to school-based resources, and that K–12 education overall has shifted to educational opportunities, DL courses may need to be modified accordingly.

The Ministry has indicated that teachers across the province are empowered to determine a final grade for children based on work completed to-date and the assessment of participation in learning opportunities that will occur over the coming months. Teachers are expected to prepare report cards for their students for June.

The evaluation of learning taking place after the suspension of in-class instruction should be in relation to a smaller selection of learning standards which students are able to complete at home.

British Columbia’s Student Reporting Policy allows significant flexibility for schools and school districts regarding the content and format of report cards.

The Minister has made it clear that all students who are on track to graduate will graduate. Conversations are ongoing regarding students who may have been struggling to meet graduation requirements. The priority will be on the 80 credits and courses needed for graduation. The Ministry is not mandating or specifying the minimum number of hours that must be completed for a student to receive credit for a Grade 10, 11, or 12 course. Hours do not necessarily reflect the actual learning that occurs. The focus is on determining if, and how, sufficient learning has taken place during these exceptional circumstances. Sufficient learning will be determined by teachers using their professional judgement.

The Ministry is working with the BC post-secondary system to facilitate successful transitions, including issuing transcripts.

Career life connections
For the specific requirement of 30 hours of work experience or career-life experience, students can be given many opportunities to fulfil these requirements in alternative ways. For example, students could do work around their home such as babysitting younger siblings, household cleaning, yard maintenance, food preparation, maintenance work or household accounting.

Provincial assessments
Provincial assessments will not take place this year with one exception. Most students who are on track to graduate have already taken the Numeracy 10 assessment, but a fraction of this group have not. Arrangements will be made to ensure that these students are able to complete the Numeracy 10 assessment, and since it is a small group it is feasible to ensure that it can be done in a safe way.

Parent communication
In terms of timelines, the Ministry has indicated that continuity of educational opportunities will begin in mid-April. We have emphasized from the beginning that there is no rush and proper planning must occur first. Some parents are anxious that their children will fall behind. In the context of a global pandemic, education as we know it has ground to a halt around the world, and everyone is having to adjust to new ways of doing things. Administrators need to take the lead in communicating with parents in order to give teachers time and space to plan.

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:

Members can also email general inquiries to 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

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?


    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?


      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.