The BC Teachers Federation says it doesn’t want school to resume this fall without smaller class sizes and stricter mask rules for staff and students.
It comes as school districts race to complete back-to-school COVID-19 plans and submit them to the province by Friday.
Under the current provincial plan, students and teachers will be grouped within learning cohorts of 60-120 people.
Adults and older students will be required to wear masks when in high-traffic common areas, such as hallways, but not in the classroom.
“We don’t see that as being appropriate,” union president Teri Mooring told Global News on Wednesday, saying the cohort policy essentially asks teachers and students to expand their family bubble to include scores of strangers.
Best practices for masks and physical distancing that are in effect in grocery stores and other places should also be applied, she added.
The union wants mask protocols enhanced so that teachers, and students over the age of 10, wear masks whenever they cannnot maintain two metres from others, including in the classroom.
“There still isn’t the ability inside a classroom of 30 students to physically distance — that’s the issue we’re having,” Mooring said.
“The classroom density needs to be reduced so that physical distancing is possible inside classrooms and within the cohorts.”
Education Minister Rob Fleming said the current mask provisions are based on the advice of the BC Centre for Disease control, and are an extra layer of protection on top of existing protocols such as cohorts, staggered start times, reduced interactions and increased hygiene.
However, students and staff can wear them at any time they choose, he said.
Fleming also appeared cool to the idea of shrinking class sizes.
“These are the smallest class sizes we’ve had for generations in British Columbia,” said Fleming.
The BCTF is also calling for a hybrid model in which students — especially those with personal or family health concerns — can learn from home.
The union is additionally asking the province to add funding to upgrade school ventilation systems and for cleaning of high-touch surfaces.View link »