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Parents, teachers picket B.C. health minister’s office over COVID-19 school plan

Former Vancouver school board trustee Carrie Bercic pickets with parents and teachers outside of Health Minister Adrian Dix's office. Global News

About a dozen parents and teachers gathered outside Health Minister Adrian Dix’s constituency office in Vancouver on Thursday to voice their concerns with B.C.’s plan to restart the school year.

The province unveiled the basics of its back-to-school plan last month, and said this week the process would be delayed until Sept. 10 to give teachers and administrators more time to prepare.

Some details, such as the role masks will play in the school setting, are still being worked out.

Read more: B.C. premier says for now school will start as planned this fall, despite parent, teacher concerns

Parent Stacey Wakelin told Global News she’s not satisfied with what she’s heard from the government so far.

“We’re concerned. The plan isn’t clear. There are mixed messages,” she said.

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“I would like to have more certainty. I’d like to see smaller class sizes. And especially to have more of a hyrbrid (in-person/online) model.”

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Vancouver teacher plans all day outdoor education for kids this fall – Aug 12, 2020

Wakelin said the consistent message from health officials since the spring has been to keep bubbles small, but that she feels that’s being discarded when it comes to schools.

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“Class sizes (are) already large and rooms (are) not big enough for physical distancing,” she said.

Annie Ohana, a teacher at Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Secondary, shared similar concerns.

Read more: Coronavirus: Details revealed for B.C’s return-to-school plan in September

She said teachers are being bombarded with questions from parents about protective equipment, overcrowding and B.C.’s rising COVID-19 case numbers — none of which she can answer.

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“What if someone gets sick? What are the protocols with school? What happens with their courses?” she said.

Click to play video: 'British Columbia students won’t return to schools until Sept. 10' British Columbia students won’t return to schools until Sept. 10
British Columbia students won’t return to schools until Sept. 10 – Aug 12, 2020

“As of right now I don’t know what my classroom looks like, I don’t know how many students I’m going to have, I don’t know even what my course load looks like.”

An Insights West poll released on Wednesday found 49 per cent of respondents are in favour of the province’s back to school plan, while 42 per cent oppose it.

The province is relying on measures such as increased hand hygiene, the removal of furniture in classrooms, staggered starts to the day and one-way flow down hallways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: B.C. students to return to the classroom by Sept. 10, a two-day delay to the start of school

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Starting Sept. 8, all staff will meet with their school’s joint health and safety committee to receive instructions about how the updated guidelines will work in their school.

Students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by Thursday Sept. 10, and will use their orientation time to get familiar with classrooms that will look different than they did before the pandemic.

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