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‘Our schools are not safe enough’: B.C. rally pushes for tougher COVID-19 measures

Click to play video: 'B.C. rally pushes for tougher COVID-19 measures in schools' B.C. rally pushes for tougher COVID-19 measures in schools
WATCH: Parents and students now know what to expect when school resumes in September. As Richard Zussman reports, masks will once again be a fixture in the classroom – Aug 28, 2021

Parents and teachers concerned B.C.’s COVID-19 safety plans don’t go far enough rallied in at Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday.

“Our schools are not safe enough for the new Delta variant that is wreaking havoc around the world and has got us up to 800 cases (per day) already,” Burnaby elementary school teacher and organizer Jennifer Heighton told Global News.

“We are entering school with full classes, so this year there are not as many remote options … we are really concerned with how this is going to affect our children. Especially the fact that Kindergarten to Grade 6 are unvaccinated and have no choice about it at this point.”

The Safe Schools Coalition BC says it picked the Vancouver suburb for the rally because of how hard the crowded school district was hit by the virus in the last school year.

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Read more: Masks to be required in B.C. classrooms from Grades 4-12 in September

The group is calling for masks to be mandatory at school for all students K-12, improved ventilation and air monitoring for all classrooms, and remote learning options for students who can not attend.

Patricia Anderson, whose daughter has asthma and is entering Grade 3 this year, said her family had to take time off work last year so she could stay home from school for an extra week after Christmas and spring break last year, as an extra precaution.

Click to play video: 'Parents, kids prepare for return to school amid Delta concerns' Parents, kids prepare for return to school amid Delta concerns
Parents, kids prepare for return to school amid Delta concerns – Aug 29, 2021

“It’s a little scary going back this year as there’s no cohorts, there’s no masks,” she said.

“They sit nine to a table, no distance. They’re in one line when they do lineups. It makes her uncomfortable, so she eats at a different table.”

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Click to play video: 'B.C.’s back-to-school safety plan' B.C.’s back-to-school safety plan
B.C.’s back-to-school safety plan – Aug 25, 2021

B.C. health and education officials announced their back-to-school COVID plan on Tuesday, which will require students in Grade 4 and up to wear masks. Younger children will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.

Masks will be mandatory for all staff.

Read more: B.C. teachers call for tougher COVID-19 measures as return to classroom looms

Health authorities will also have the discretion to impose stricter measures in specific school districts, in areas where there is higher community transmission.

The province maintains that schools are not a high-risk setting, and studies by Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health have found that after a resumption of in-class learning, schools were not significant sources of COVID-19 transmission.

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The BC Teachers Federation, however, remains concerned and is also calling for system-wide mandatory masks, improved testing and vaccination clinics at B.C. schools.

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