Tuesday, November 17, 2020

PRDTU offers up a range of questions for Thursday's Virtual COVID Town Hall with SD52/Northern Health

As we outlined seven days ago, an important community town hall is set for this week. 

With School District 52 and Northern Health in the last few days of preparation for Thursday's Virtual COVID-19 forum, which will take place from 5 to 6 PM. 

The online link for participation of the public to be posted by forum organizers to the SD52 website on the day of the event.

As part of their work over the last week, the School District has been accepting submissions from the public towards the questions that the public and local education community would like to have explored by the Town Hall organizers.

The deadline for those quesitons and comments comes this afternoon, and to share your thoughts all you need to do is drop a line to info@sd52.bc.ca

One group in the city has already provided a glimpse into what they will be seeking some feedback on, with the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union submitting a list of eight questions for the forum, their contributions culled from the guidance from their membership.

Among some of the themes that the PRDTU covers in their presentation are: the school district's ability to exceed minimal standards of government and public health, the district's position on face coverings to keep schools safe, reporting of known COVID-19 exposures in schools, vaccine access for frontline workers including teachers and other school staff and the role of teachers in helping inform students and the pubic of science-based health information.  

As part of their relay of information for Thursday's forum, PRDTU President Gabriel Bureau outlined the focus that the organization has on safety in the schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Teachers are on the frontlines of this pandemic. Teachers are keeping schools open as professionals, providing both educational and economic benefits for the entire community. Teachers are proud of this role, but they also want to be safe at work. Teachers care about the health and safety of their students, which is why they want to know how the school district and public health are planning to improve safety in schools.” -- Gabriel Bureau, President of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union (PRDTU). 

The preview of their eight questions can be reviewed below:

 1. Does SD52 currently have the authority to exceed the minimal COVID-19 control measures and standards set by the Ministry of Education, public health authorities, and/or WorkSafeBC? If so, what are some specific examples of how SD52 could be exceeding these minimal standards and measures? 

2. Does SD52 currently have the authority to require the use of face coverings in schools and classrooms by all persons, with exceptions for medical reasons provided on an individual basis? If so, why is SD52 not using its authority to require the use of face coverings in schools and classrooms by all persons? 

3. How does Northern Health interpret Dr. Bonnie Henry's "expectation" that people wear face coverings when in indoor public spaces? How does this apply in the context of schools and classrooms? Should students and staff individually be applying this recommendation from the PHO by using face coverings - while in the indoor and public spaces that are schools and classrooms? 

4. What safety measures are in place for classrooms where there is a student in a home with a known COVID positive test result? Are teachers immediately informed of this? How can teachers put in place more precautions and protective measures if a student in the classroom is in a home with a known COVID positive test result? 

5. Are teachers and other staff immediately informed if there is a known greater risk of exposure to the employee (for example, if a student in the class of a teacher or other staff member is known to have tested positive for COVID)? 

6. Will teachers and other school staff have early access to a vaccine once it has become available? 

7. How will health authorities work with schools and teachers to help inform students and the public of the health benefits of vaccines and of the safety measures in place for any vaccine that is approved for use in Canada? 

8. How are health authorities working with schools and teachers to promote science-based public health information and to educate students on health and safety measures and the reasons for these measures? Given that teachers already have trusted relationships with students and families in the community, is public health planning on working with schools and teachers to help get science-based health information.

The PRDTU themes mirror many of the concerns that are currently being put forward in many School Districts, particularly in the Lower Mainland where the pandemic has seen a significant surge over the last month.

To access the Virtual Town Hall on Thursday, check the SD52 website that day for more information on how to join in on the conversation.

You can keep up with more notes on education across the Northwest from our archive page.

Our archive for Northern Health is available here.

To keep up on the latest updates from the province on the path of COVID across British Columbia see our COVID archive page here.

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