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Vernon teachers raising COVID-19 concerns about in-person parent teacher conferences

Click to play video: 'Vernon teachers raising COVID-19 concerns about in-person parent teacher conferences' Vernon teachers raising COVID-19 concerns about in-person parent teacher conferences
The union representing Vernon teachers is raising concerns about the format for next week's parent teacher conferences. Parents in the school district are being given the option to meet with teachers in-person, leaving some educators concerned about the potential for COVID exposures. However, as Megan Turcato reports, the district insists teachers won't be forced to do in-person meetings if they aren't comfortable – Oct 19, 2021

The union representing Vernon teachers is raising concerns about the format for next week’s parent-teacher conferences.

Parents in the school district are being given the option to meet with teachers in-person, leaving some educators concerned about the potential for COVID-19 exposures.

However, the school district insists teachers can weigh in on the meeting formats and educators won’t be forced to do in-person meetings if they aren’t comfortable.

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Last year, the conferences happened virtually, but this time around the parents are being given the choice to have the meetings in-person, by phone, or through online video.

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The focus on parent choice is leaving some educators feeling like their preferences and health concerns are not being taken into consideration.

“It is all about parent voice, parent choice so mostly the parents can choose what [format the meeting] will be,” said Vernon Teachers’ Association president Cori Huizer.

“It is all about the parents wishing to do it in-person or online vs. what is the best for the employees’ safety and the community’s safety.”

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Huizer said while some teachers may prefer in-person meetings, for other educators the possibility of needing to meet with large numbers of parents in-person is stressful.

“It’s an added mental health issue to be honest for a lot of teachers who are still not comfortable with the safety in the school or allowing others into their bubble,” Huizer said.

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“The teachers care so much for students and their well-being that 18 months of COVID is taking a hit. They are exhausted already and this is just one more layer that is really hard to take.”

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A parents group is urging guardians to take teachers into consideration and opt for virtual meetings wherever possible.

“If an in-person conference is needed we appreciate that that might be the option that needs to be done this year, but overall we don’t feel it’s the time to go back to in-person conferences for all students and parents,” said Sarah Lauman the vice-president of the District Parent Advisory Council.

However, according to the school district superintendent, deciding on the meeting format is meant to be collaborative and educators won’t be forced to meet parents in-person if they aren’t comfortable.

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“Of course, when a parent and a teacher are having a phone call to set up the appointment, in the first place, there is the opportunity for the teacher to say, ‘You know what I’m really nervous about this so I would like to just have our meeting on Zoom. Is that okay with you?’ and then most reasonable parents are going to say, ‘Yes, of course, no problem,'” said superintendent Christine Perkins.

Perkins says parents are already visiting schools for other reasons and the flexible meeting formats are meant to accommodate a variety of parent needs.

“Parent choice, parent voice is just the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we are here to serve you. It is not the other way around,’ and it gives an opportunity to build relationships,” Perkins said.

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