Friday, November 20, 2020

PRDTU calls for 'local leadership' from School District on COVID-19 response

So far there has been only one COVID related incident relayed
by Northern Health and SD52, still the risk of the virus has
the PRDTU calling for more expansive local measures

Thursday night featured an online forum hosted by School District 52 and Northern Health to review some of the elements of the School's COVID approach and from their review of the evening's dialogue, the Prince Rupert and District Teachers Union came away with a few takeaways and increased their calls for some additional measures at the local level.

Among the items at the top of their list as relayed by PRDTU President Gabriel Bureau remains their call that the use of Masks be required in Prince Rupert's Schools and Classrooms.

Noting that the current measures have shortcomings Mr. Bureau outlined the unions key point on the topic.

“Students, staff, and the public should be required to wear masks in all public indoor spaces, including in classrooms and schools. With masks now required in public indoor spaces throughout BC, the same rules should apply for students and school staff.”

Also on the theme of masks, Mr. Bureau reacted to the confirmation by Northern Health that schools, according to public health officials, are not considered “public spaces” where mask requirements apply.

The Union president observing how “This simply makes no sense. Masks in schools and classrooms limit the spread from exposure and protect people from COVID-19 and should be part of school safety plans.”

The PRDTU President also outlined that more efforts are required towards contact tracing and notification.

"More is needed for schools to be safe for students and staff. Precautionary measures like mask mandates, lower density, remote learning supports, and adequate ventilation are needed. Parents expect schools to be safe. So do teachers. Northern Health shared information on the level of infections due to exposures at schools."

The low level of infections that have been shared is welcome news for the PRDTU, however Mr. Bureau has observed that there is still much more to do towards keeping the schools safe.

 “Parents and staff members do not care about averages. Families care about their child’s safety. Staff members have a right to safety at work,. That’s why safety in every school and classroom should be the school district’s first and foremost priority. All measures to keep kids and schools safe should be put in place.” 

The need for more leadership from the School District is also a key for the PRDTU, with Mr. Bureau noting how there is a need for the District officials to increase their overview of the pandemic response.

“Teachers want more leadership from the School District, The buck stops with school leaders here in Prince Rupert, not from officials based in Victoria and elsewhere. Teachers want improved safety, including mandated masks in classrooms and schools, to protect our students and staff members.” 

While the School District has stated that it is governed by the School's Act, the union believes that they can still put forward initiatives to provide protection for students and teachers.

“There is not a prohibition for the School District to enact higher standards for school safety. It must do what is in its power to protect its employees and the students in our schools. We have local School Boards in place to ensure that communities have input in the education of their own children. Now we need local leadership more than ever.”

The Union membership is also concerned that there is no plan in place by the School District to work with teachers when it comes to educating  the public on the health benefits of vaccines

“It’s time to start listening to the professionals who understand schools: Teachers."

"The PRDTU President also observed that "Teachers are already trusted in the community and we have the tools and relationships needed to help inform the public in the role of science and public health in keeping people and communities safe during this pandemic.” 

The local union members are not the only ones disappointed with the lack of action on some of their concerns. As has been noted previous, even though Doctor Bonnie Henry has issued a wide ranging masks on order for many elements of our day to day travels now, the one area where the masks rule was not expanded was in the schools.

And that has caught the attention of the BCTF which expressed its disappointment  through a range of social media updates.

You can review more notes on how the province and local School District has put together the COVID related measures from our archive page here.

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