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B.C. teachers’ union calls for 15-student cap in Fraser Health region schools

Click to play video 'BC Teachers’ Federation calling on province to drop class sizes in Fraser Health to 15 students' BC Teachers’ Federation calling on province to drop class sizes in Fraser Health to 15 students
BC Teachers' Federation calling on province to drop class sizes in Fraser Health to 15 students – Nov 14, 2020

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has written to Premier John Horgan calling for class sizes in the Fraser Health region to be capped at 15 students.

It comes as the province sees a surge in new COVID-19 cases, most of them within the health authority.

Click to play video 'B.C. school concerns increase as coronavirus cases soar' B.C. school concerns increase as coronavirus cases soar
B.C. school concerns increase as coronavirus cases soar – Nov 12, 2020

Total cases in the Fraser Health region have more than doubled in the last month, and the province says 175 of B.C.’s 261 COVID-19 exposures in schools (67 per cent) have occurred within its boundaries.

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Read more: Coronavirus: List of B.C. school exposures

As we see more community spread, we are going to see more school exposure events, and … with more school exposures, there is inevitably going to be more in school transmissions,” BCTF president Teri Mooring told Global News.

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“We think the time to act is now. We don’t want to be looking back a month from now and wish someone had acted.”

Mooring said teachers are becoming increasingly concerned about their safety, arguing that many Fraser region classrooms have up to 30 students, making physical distancing impossible.

She said many secondary schools in the Vancouver School District have 15-class students, and that there’s nothing preventing the province from going over and above the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s recommendations.

Click to play video 'Surrey parents want mandatory masks in schools and more information about exposures' Surrey parents want mandatory masks in schools and more information about exposures
Surrey parents want mandatory masks in schools and more information about exposures – Oct 29, 2020

“We’re really concerned, which is why we’re saying take a regional approach, if nothing else, if you’re not going to reduce class sizes across the board,” she said.

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“We acknowledge that we’re not seeing the same prevalence of the virus everywhere in the province, and we have particular concerns about the Fraser Health Authority right now.”

Teachers are also renewing their call for mandatory masks in classrooms. Under the current protocols, masks are only required in high-traffic areas, and among older students.

The union is also concerned with what Mooring called inconsistent definitions of cases, exposures, clusters or outbreaks across different school districts.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said the health and safety of students and staff remains its highest priority.

Read more: ‘Troubleshooters’ to help resolve COVID-19 disputes in B.C. school system

“We know there are growing concerns about COVID cases in our province in especially in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions,” reads the statement.

“We continue to consult the Provincial Health Officer and local health authorities on the best approach going forward and any changes would be under the direction of public health.”

The ministry added that it hopes new regional restrictions will help flatten the curve of infection in the Lower Mainland, “for the benefit of students, staff, schools and communities.”