The B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) says that most teachers in the province have concerns over the COVID-19 safety measures in place at their schools amid the pandemic.
The BCTF says that a poll of their members, conducted between Sept. 17 and Sept. 21, found that more than half of respondents found that safety conditions at their school were “somewhat inadequate” or “completely inadequate.”
In contrast, just seven per cent of respondents said they felt completely comfortable at their schools and that safety measures were “completely adequate.”
In total, 37 per cent of respondents said conditions were “somewhat inadequate” while 22.5 per cent said that safety policies were “completely inadequate.”
Roughly eight per cent said they were unsure, while 25.4 per cent said that safety conditions were “somewhat adequate.”
The BCTF says some of the largest concerns shared by teachers include a lack of physical distancing opportunities in classrooms, and a lack of mask wearing.
“Many teachers are working in classrooms that have no space for physical distancing or access to fresh air,” said BCTF president Teri Mooring in a release Tuesday.
“In many cases there has been no reduction in class sizes or school density. Coupled with a weak mask mandate and it’s clear why so many teachers are reporting unsafe conditions,” she said.
The teacher’s federation says that educators are calling for smaller class sizes to allow for physical distancing, stronger mask polices and the introduction of province-wide remote or hybrid learning options.
“The COVID-19 exposures started almost as soon as schools opened, and now we know there has likely been in-school transmission at multiple sites,” said Moore.
“The first month has been filled with confusing and inconsistent public reporting, online speculation, and serious lags between an exposure and effective contact tracing,” she said. “We need the health authorities and school districts to be doing a better job at informing teachers and parents about possible exposures.”
On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that children under the age of 19 were still “underrepresented” when it comes to COVID-19 cases in the province by age demographic, despite reopening schools.
She said that this underrepresentation remained true even as testing in the age group increased dramatically due to school restarting. COVID-19 testing increased four-fold for children aged five to 12 since schools reopened, and doubled in young people aged 13 to 18.
Henry said Monday that children aged 0 to 10 make up roughly 10 per cent of the province’s population but have so far been just five per cent of B.C.’s confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.
She added that no young person has required intensive care treatment or died from the virus in B.C. since the start of the pandemic.
The BCTF survey received responses from 8,952 teachers across 58 of B.C.’s 60 public school districts.
COVID-19 exposure events in schools are reported on the BCCDC website and through each individual health authority’s website.