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Over a third of B.C. teachers ‘unsure’ about returning to classroom in September

B.C. teachers still concerned about back to school
With the B.C. government set to release its back to school plans on Wednesday, the province's teachers are still concerned that problems found during the short spring reopening aren't being addressed properly. Richard Zussman reports.

B.C. teachers are “unsure” about a return to school in September and only half of them felt safe during the voluntary return to class last month.

According to preliminary results of an internal survey of B.C. Teachers’ Federation members, a majority felt exhausted by increased workloads and say they need more support.

“Teachers are working hard, but they need more support,” BCTF president Teri Mooring tweeted over the weekend.

Read more: Coronavirus: 73% of B.C. parents support mandatory masks for back-to-school, poll suggests

“An overwhelming majority of teachers indicated stringent health and safety measures are essential for a safe return to school. Teachers say PPE is key to make work safer for teachers and students.”

The survey found teachers are worried the pandemic is exposing and magnifying existing inequities in the system. Six in 10 teachers say the rapid shift to online and distance learning has forced them to change how they teach in “problematic ways.”

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“Over half of teachers say the loss of support staff and EAs [education assistants] due to distance learning has negatively impacted students’ ability to learn,” Mooring tweeted.

The B.C. government is expected to announce Wednesday a full return to school in the fall for students from kindergarten to Grade 7. Students from Grades 8 to 12 are expected to be back in the classroom with some virtual learning.

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B.C. government planning for full return to school in September
B.C. government planning for full return to school in September

The province has been meeting regularly with a working group to determine what school will look like come the fall.

One of the things the working group is looking at is providing options for districts to adjust if certain communities see a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“It is important for families to be flexible and for workplaces to think about being flexible as well as we come into the fall,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

British Columbia was the only jurisdiction in North America to open all schools in June. The province says health officials and educators learned a lot during the restart.

“That has put us in good stead for making sure we have plans for the future that are the safest for all involved, including teachers. And absolutely, we all have some anxieties about going back in time, but I think we need to address those. We need to work together on making sure that we have things in place,” Henry said.

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“And we have not done COVID before, but we have had outbreaks in our school systems before. We know how to handle those, whether it is measles, influenza, chickenpox, pertussis, meningitis. There are many things that happen in our congregate settings, particularly in school settings, and we can manage those together. And we need to do that through the pandemic.”