Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association weighs in on back-to-school plans

Central Okanagan Teachers’ Union weighs in on back-to-school plans

The idea of going back to school can cause anxiety for some students, parents and teachers every year, but COVID-19 is amplifying it.

“There is a range of reactions,” said Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association president Susan Bauhart.

Bauhart said the union is anxiously waiting for a document from the education ministry about what the return to class will look like. It’s expected to be released on Monday, she added.

Read more: Okanagan-Skaha school district plans return to classes amid coronavirus pandemic

“It’s going to contain a bunch of operational information,” Bauhart said. “And then it’s going to be a mad rush next week, from (Aug.) 17 when that document is released. The district’s health and safety plan will be finalized.”

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Extended interview with Okanagan teachers’ union president
Extended interview with Okanagan teachers’ union president

In an email, superintendent Kevin Kaardal said the Central Okanagan School District’s plan will be released on Aug. 26.

In the meantime, the school district has purchased 50 electrostatic sprayers to efficiently disinfect classrooms and common areas, he said.

Read more: Penticton, B.C., parents scramble to find child care as city develops action plan

Kaardal said the school district is also spending $946,498 on additional custodial staffing, $377,365 on hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, $121,836 on more technology to support remote learning and $92,053 on purchasing 50,000 reusable cloth masks for staff and students.

“The number one message: teachers do want to be back in school with their students. We want to. We just want it to be safe,” Bauhart said.

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One of the biggest problems Bauhart has been hearing about the current restart plan is concerns that students will be grouped into large units.

“Everything that they’ve been hearing through the summer and before has been ‘keep your bubble small.’ And now it’s cohorts of 120 and 60. People struggle with that,” she said.

Teachers are expected to be back at school on Sept. 8, and students are currently scheduled to head back to class on Sept. 10.

But what that looks like, and whether it’s online, part-time or in person is still up in the air, Bauhart said.

Overnight travel to the Thompson Okanagan rebounding
Overnight travel to the Thompson Okanagan rebounding