North Okanagan teachers voice concerns as they return to class

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Okanagan teachers headed back to school Tuesday ahead of the return of students later this week. They are going back to class with new COVID-19 protocols in place. However, as Megan Turcato reports, some local teachers are concerned they won't have the space to keep the recommended physical distance in the classroom – Sep 8, 2020

Two days ahead of their students, Okanagan teachers returned to school Tuesday to prepare for the start of classes.

“Today is fully for health and safety training and some prepping and planning,” Vernon Teachers’ Association president Cori Huizer said.

New COVID-19 safety precautions include older students and staff wearing masks in some situations.

Read more: Okanagan Skaha school district urging parents to fill out online survey for upcoming school year

Kids will also be grouped into learning cohorts to limit their number of contacts.

“We understand there is a wide range of emotions coming back for our staff and for our families, so we have quite a few options including online options,” Vernon School District Superintendent Joe Rogers said.

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“We, as of this morning, had about 325 students choose to go to the online option, more than we had last year,” he added.

Read more: Okanagan Skaha school district releases back-to-school safety plan

However, some teachers said they’re worried.

“We have a range of members: from those who (have) absolutely no problem going back in the classroom, to those who have many, many concerns,” Huizer said.

“A lot of it has to do with physical distancing,” she added. “For high school, they will have their backpacks with them; space is pretty small in many classrooms.”

Read more: Central Okanagan school district releases student, safety plan for upcoming school year

The Vernon School District said additional safety measures can be put in place for teachers with concerns.

“If they have any particular concerns, we can put plexiglass up,” Rogers said, adding that teachers can make the request through the human resources department.

“Some teachers have requested face shields and we provided those as well,” he said.

Read more: Get an inside look at Penticton’s largest school in the COVID-19 era

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The return to school this week will put the carefully laid plans to the test.

“I understand there is a lot of people who have some concerns,” Rogers said. “I just want people to understand that we are working as hard as we can to alleviate those concerns, to put the protocols in place.”

“But again, number one, if your child’s not feeling well or you are one of our employees and you are not feeling well: stay home,” he said.

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