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‘We are not safe’: Surrey teachers’ open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry calls for mask rules

Click to play video 'Surrey teachers to Dr. Bonnie Henry: ‘We are not safe’' Surrey teachers to Dr. Bonnie Henry: ‘We are not safe’
Surrey teachers to Dr. Bonnie Henry: 'We are not safe' – Dec 16, 2020

Teachers in Surrey, B.C., are once again demanding stronger measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms.

In an open letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry published on Tuesday, members of the Surrey Teachers’ Association said “we are not safe.”

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Surrey Teachers’ Association weighs in on school closure – Nov 15, 2020

“In normal times, overcrowding is the source of almost every problem and tension in our school district, and in the pandemic the overcrowding is hazardous,” the letter said.

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The association, which represents 6,000 teachers, asked for schools to get the same safety measures as public indoor spaces.

Read more: After latest outbreak, Surrey teachers call for mandatory masks, smaller classes

“We need to have a mask mandate,” the letter said.

Click to play video 'Surrey teachers pen an open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry demanding stronger measures' Surrey teachers pen an open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry demanding stronger measures
Surrey teachers pen an open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry demanding stronger measures – Dec 16, 2020

“We need to be able to physically distance students by reducing classroom density to 50 per cent. In any other indoor public setting, there would be fines to have 30 people sitting close together in one 75-square-metre space without masks.

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

“In jurisdictions across the world, students wear masks inside classrooms. It’s one of the most important layers of protection against the transmission of the virus.”

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said there has been little transmission in the school system.

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“Of course what happens in schools reflects what happening in our communities,” she said. “That is why it’s so important we all follow the orders and directives of our health officials with respect to physically distancing, staying home if we’re sick.”

“All of those things are incredibly right now, because slowing transmission in our communities, that is what will keep our schools safe.”

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Last month, the association wrote a letter to the board of education demanding stricter protocols to combat COVID-19 after two schools closed due to outbreaks.

In September, the BC Teachers’ Federation said it submitted an application to the Labour Relations Board in an attempt to force changes to what it calls the “haphazard implementation of health and safety measures” amid the pandemic.

— With files from Simon Little

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