BC Teachers Left in Dark and Out in Open to Face COVID

Another Surrey school has been put under lockdown for two weeks. This comes just as local music teacher Darlene Lourenco came back home after spending two weeks in the hospital. Clearly, no lessons were learnt and no steps taken.

In an open letter to the parents last week, BCTF President Teri Mooring talked about encouraging children to wear masks in school. Mooring said, “The school community has come together and made mask wearing normal and expected. It really helps everyone in our schools feel safer.”

As per the latest measures, schools are not considered a public place, at least classrooms. Children are not considered spreaders. “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. The first month has been filled with confusing and inconsistent public reporting, online speculation, and serious lags between an exposure and effective contact tracing,” said Mooring in the letter.

Masks are just one of the issues. Two Surrey teachers spoke to AAJ team and revealed that the utter lack of transparency with respect to exposures was the key problem. “We are just told there was an exposure. No names, no class, not even if it was a staff member or a kid in my class. At least 4-5 kids are absent every day, there’s no way to know if they were exposed,” says a very upset Surrey teacher whose senior dad lives with her. She is scared, worried, and angry but at the same time understands why schools are important. Her own child goes to school so she can work. She is just like any other frontline worker. But the stark contrast is her job is not considered that “critical”. “I feel teachers are seen as one dimensional. It’s like no one expects us to have families or even considers us humans.”

Grocery stores and other establishments have been seeing at least 80% of the visitors wearing face coverings even before last week’s mandate by Dr Bonnie Henry. Although indoors, the headcount at stores was being monitored and the 6-feet distance practiced. Why were classrooms left out, asks another Surrey-based teacher whose school has had several exposures. When asked about how and when are the exposures communicated. “Too late and with too little information,” says the teacher.

“Cohort is just an eyewash. Can you stop teenagers from mingling with those outside this group?”. Teachers are just another cog in the wheel but if they stop showing up, parents won’t be able to work and children will experience societal stress. Still, the role of teachers is undermined or conveniently ignored. A recent poll by castanet.net revealed that 58.5% do not think BC teachers should be given hazard pay. “It is heartbreaking to learn that we are not respected.” Without PPE and in a room stuffed with children without face masks, teachers are constantly worried about bringing the infection home.

Meanwhile, local BC moms have launched BC Student SICK OUT campaign, urging parents to keep their kids home on December 1. The group aims to “stand up and be heard”. Their Facebook pages states, “Let’s show our elected officials enough is enough. Our students and teachers are not disposable and serve the safety standard that every single place of employment is required by law to implement.” However, the campaign has invited equal criticism from other parents.

AAJ stands by our teachers and pledges to make their voices heard. Which side are you on?