On Tuesday, B.C. teachers head back to school, just a few days before students return for COVID-19 related orientation.
With the province expecting a majority of kids physically back in class, there are still outstanding concerns for teachers, while families brace for a school year unlike any other.
On Sept. 3, Premier John Horgan indicated most students across the province would be returning.
“We’ve had the 60 school districts canvas parents,” he said. “On average, about 80 per cent or better are ready, willing and able to send their kids back.”
But Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers Federation, told CTV News teachers remain concerned about a lack of preventative measures within classrooms.
"Inside classrooms, there is no physical distancing, and there is no mask-wearing policy,” she said, and added there are intermediate classrooms from grades 4 to 12 in particular where distancing is just not possible.
"Teachers are to go into schools and see whether portable hand-washing stations have been put into classrooms where there are no sinks. We have lots of older buildings, lots of older schools in B.C....windows that don’t open.”
The union is pushing for districts to use their share of $242 million in federal funding to reduce class sizes through hiring teachers and ensuring remote and hybrid education options. Half of the money is being distributed by the province based on enrolment this fall, and the rest is expected in January.
Vancouver psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang also has some advice for families who may be stressed about the new school year.
"I would say there’s a link between anxious parents and anxious children, so the best thing is to take care of yourself,” she said. “Remember self-care. Routine regular sleep, exercise, social connection, get outside in nature.”
Dr. Kang said people can also practise some of the new routines and protocols with their kids in advance, such as when to wear a mask.
"Also practise communicating their concerns,” Dr. Kang said. “So what do they say if they’re worried about going to the bathroom, or talking to a teacher? So give them that opportunity to play out these scenarios.”
School staff will meet with health and safety committees beginning Tuesday. Students return for orientation Sept. 10.