The argument for smaller class sizes in B.C. has never taken on such gravitas as it has during this pandemic, with teacher representatives pleading with the province to keep both students and school staff safer.
“Physical distancing remains one of the big things,” Bauhart said. “Distancing needs to be addressed in schools. We have classes that are cram-packed.”
“It’s very concerning,” she said.
Bauhart said staff in the Central Okanagan School District (S.D. No. 23) are becoming increasingly nervous as not only COVID-19 case numbers surge across the province, but so have the number of more contagious variants.
On Tuesday, there were 266 active cases of COVID-19 variants in B.C., according to B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who noted that number was only three per cent of the total currently active virus cases in B.C.
And while Henry acknowledged officials have talked about shutting down schools to once again help flatten the curve, she said COVID-19 cases have, so far, only risen when children are not in school.
“Children need school,” Dr. Henry said. “We know it is a safe place for them.”
Bauhart said the mask mandate for students in Grades 4 to 12 was a good first step three weeks ago, but said it’s important to address the challenge of physical distancing as virus and variant case numbers remain high.
“Teachers, support staff, administrators: I applaud their efforts,” Bauhart said.
“They are first-line workers in a very uncertain world right now with the variant. They’re doing everything that they can to make it good for the children.”
Bauhart is urging teachers to open windows as much as possible to help ventilate classrooms until all schools are fitted with MERV 13 filters, which is recommended by the B.C. government but has not been fully implemented in all facilities, she said.
“They keep telling us that all of the safety precautions that are in our schools are there and will keep our teachers safe, and our students safe,” said Bauhart.
“But nothing has really changed in terms of those precautions since September. What has changed is the variant and how quickly it spreads.”