Coronavirus: Surrey, B.C., teacher says they need more time for back-to-school plans

Click to play video: 'Teachers concerned with B.C.’s back-to-school plan' Teachers concerned with B.C.’s back-to-school plan
With the new school year just weeks away, B.C. teachers are anxious about getting back into the classroom and the COVID-19 safety protocols in place. – Aug 18, 2020

As cases of COVID-19 continue to trend upwards in B.C. — and a one-day total hitting 100 cases for the first time ever — concerns are rising over students’ returning to school in just a few weeks.

Surrey, B.C., school teacher Lizanne Foster said teachers need more time than usual to prepare for the students’ return.

“We need two weeks. In order to adapt to this new reality, we needed two weeks,” she told Global News.

“The most anxiety that we’re having right now is there’s been no change to the number of people that we can have in a class.”

Click to play video: 'Face masks now mandatory in B.C. schools' Face masks now mandatory in B.C. schools
Face masks now mandatory in B.C. schools – Aug 18, 2020

On the advice of the provincial health officer, students will be organized into a consistent group of staff and students, to be called learning groups, in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and ensure quicker contact-tracing if needed.

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But Foster said many of Surrey’s schools are already overcrowded, with some at 200-per-cent capacity.

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“For the past six months all we’ve heard is the most important, the most effective, protection against the virus is to physically distance,” she said.

“That’s impossible in a class where you’ve got 30 students in a class, class size is 75 square metres, and some teachers don’t have windows in their class.”

Read more: B.C. school staff, middle and secondary students will be required to wear masks in high-traffic areas

Ventilation and airflow have been identified as a tool that can be used to keep students and staff safer but without windows in some classrooms, Foster said this will not be possible.

On Monday, the provincial government announced that masks will be mandatory for staff, middle, and high school students in high-traffic areas on school grounds. This includes buses and hallways but not classrooms.

“It seemed like it was a good thing, except that they did not say there should be masks in classrooms,” Foster said. “And in lots of other jurisdictions around the world, you’ve got masks in classrooms.”

“So we are wondering why B.C. is this exception.”

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The start of school in B.C. has been delayed by two days but Foster insists this is not enough time to get everything prepared.

Teachers are required to meet with the health and safety committee but Foster said the committee is made up of teachers who are still on summer break.

“So they have not had time to prepare. They have not had time to go into the school and take a look at the new operational guidelines and what that looks like in school.”

Foster added in previous years teachers were given months to plan for the first week of September, which is usually very chaotic, but now they have been given just a few weeks to prepare for a new normal under the pandemic.

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“I know teachers might make it look easy but it’s a lot of work.”

Click to play video: 'Protesting B.C’s back-to-school plan' Protesting B.C’s back-to-school plan
Protesting B.C’s back-to-school plan – Aug 15, 2020

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