Following the province’s January 7 announcement of a return to elementary and secondary school, the BC Teachers Federation is calling for additional security measures to ensure the safety of staff and students.
BCTF president Teri Mooring said the province should provide N95 masks to all students and staff who want them. The province is providing three-layer medical masks, which Mooring says is a good start.
“We are happy to hear that the masks will be readily available and that their importance will be emphasized as one of the issues we have faced is the lack of support for teachers trying to ensure that the provincial health order is applied, ”she said. noted. “We think the N95s are a small step in adding another layer of protection.”
Mooring also called for teachers to be given priority for vaccine booster doses. She said many teachers said they had difficulty booking reminder appointments and expressed concern that January could see teachers sick with COVID-19 infections.
On immunizations, Mooring called for more efforts to immunize children aged 5 to 11 and to increase access for families seeking their first dose. She pointed out that the low vaccination rates in Northern Health and Interior Health were a cause for concern.
Ventilation in schools has been a constant concern for the BCTF throughout the pandemic. Mooring acknowledged that the province has done considerable work to identify problems and improve school ventilation systems, but noted that some schools do not have MERV-13 filtration systems. MERV-13 filters capture more virus-sized particles, but can put pressure on ventilation systems that may only be able to operate standard MERV-8 filters.
“What we are trying to prevent are functional shutdowns,” she said. “Our concern with functional shutdowns is that there will be very little notice and it can be very disruptive to the system.”
Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said the province will not provide information on individual cases or COVID exposure notices to families. Instead, the province will only report cases if attendance falls below usual rates.
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