Two B.C. moms urge parents to keep kids out of school to protest COVID-19 class size, mask rules

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: B.C. parents plan province-wide ‘sick out’ protest' Coronavirus: B.C. parents plan province-wide ‘sick out’ protest
A group of frustrated parents across BC are planning to keep their kids home from school tomorrow to protest COVID- 19 safety protocols. They're hoping to get the attention of the province through the "Sick Out" protest - demanding changes to schools and contact tracing. Richard Zussman has reaction from B.C.'s new education minister. – Nov 30, 2020

Hundreds of families across British Columbia are participating in a protest on Tuesday to keep kids home from school in a show of frustration over the province’s coronavirus back-to-school plan.

The BC Student SICK Out has been planned by two moms in Langley and has more than 2,500 members on Facebook.

Click to play video 'More calls for mandatory masks in B.C. schools' More calls for mandatory masks in B.C. schools
More calls for mandatory masks in B.C. schools – Nov 27, 2020

“We are asking everyone that is able to keep their children home from school to do so,” organizer Miranda Tracy said.

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“We are doing this to bring attention to our schools and the safety measures that are not in place but are everywhere else. We are asking for masks, smaller class sizes and online learning options for everyone who would like it across the province.”

There have been growing concerns from parents and teachers over the last few weeks as exposure events continue to grow in schools.

Read more: Parents anxious as Surrey school closed by COVID-19 prepares to reopen

Another Facebook page, BC School COVID Tracker, has identified 1,051 COVID exposures in 530 school across the province. The exposure numbers are significantly higher than on the health authority websites where cases of COVID in schools are officially tracked.

Tracy says her group’s biggest frustration and one of the main reasons for leading the protest is a lack of transparency. The Langley mother says there is no “openness” in the exposure notices and the schools are struggling to keep up.

“We would like to see the province listen. Listen to the teachers, listen to the parents, listen to the students. Many people want more than just washing their hands,” Tracy said.

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

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Tara Kurtz is organizing the sick-out with Tracy.

Kurtz, a parent of a child with special needs, says she realizes not everyone will be able to participate in the protest. But the measures being asked for support both those who can have their children at home for virtual learning and those who cannot, she says.

“We realize not everyone can take the day off work, not everyone has child care. The reason we are doing this is, if your child needs to be in school we are trying to make it safer for them. Some kids need to be in school,” Kurtz said.

“Smaller classes and a mask mandate would make it safer for (my child) and the other kids who need to be there.”

Premier John Horgan announced a change last week at the Ministry of Education, naming Jennifer Whiteside as the new minister, replacing Rob Fleming.

Click to play video 'New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside named new B.C. education minister' New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside named new B.C. education minister
New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside named new B.C. education minister – Nov 27, 2020

Whiteside says she is aware of the protest and the anxieties parents are facing. She is encouraging all British Columbians to follow the health and safety guidelines in order to cut down on community spread.

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“We are all concerned about the level of anxiety people in our communities are feeling. I can appreciate the concerns parents have,” Whiteside said.

“Folks have been doing a remarkable job at keeping our schools open and functioning because school is really where our kids need to go.”