Staff shortages at Armstrong Elementary


It’s been one week since students returned to the classroom for in-person learning since the extended three-week winter break, and already, there have been three schools forced to briefly shut down.

One of them is Armstrong Elementary in the North Okanagan, which closed its doors Friday and won't welcome back students until Tuesday.

They posted on its website explaining that a “staffing shortage” had prompted temporary closures.

“Those are areas in the province where the teacher shortage is just particularly dire,” said Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation. “It’s not surprising that these are the areas where we're seeing the first few functional closures.

The staffing shortage in Amrstrong was caused by teachers exercising their right to refuse unsafe work and filed claims with WorkSafe BC.

Graham Gomme, president of the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association, did not respond to CTV News’ questions about how many teachers filed unsafe work claims and did not elaborate on the situation, but hinted the issue of masking is to blame.

“Most of the teachers felt unsafe working at the school and several have stayed home because of the number of students not wearing masks,” Gomme wrote in an email.

Since Oct. 1, 2021, a mask mandate was expanded to include all K to 12 students.

There are some exemptions allowed, including students who cannot tolerate a mask for health or behavioural reasons, but Mooring said some students are refusing to wear masks altogether.

(Files CTV News)