Petition calls on B.C. to halt plan to restart in-school learning
VANCOUVER -- An online petition is calling for B.C. to halt its plan to restart schools, saying that even though parents can choose whether or not to send kids back, employers may pressure parents to return to work now that the option is available.
After suspending in-class schooling in mid-March because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19, B.C.'s premier announced on May 15 that parents would have the option of sending children back to school part-time on June 1 –or continuing with online-based learning.
"Some employers may expect their employees with children to willingly return to the workplace now that the option of part-time education is available," wrote Patricia Cullen, the creator of the petition, on Change.org.
"For many, the decision to send their kids to school is less a voluntary one and more a forced risk."
Cullen said she was also concerned that the plan calls for children from kindergarten to Grade 5 to return part-time two days a week, while students in Grades 6 and 7 will return one day a week.
"Children this age are too young to carry the social responsibility to effectively sanitize themselves for the health & safety of others, but will be at school two times more often than older children, who are more likely to sanitize effectively and are only likely to attend one day/week," she wrote.
In an interview with CTV Morning Live Tuesday, the superintendent of Surrey's school district said children in Kindergarten to Grade 5 will have the option of attending two days a week, while students in Grades 6 and 7 will likely attend on just one day every week.
Jordan Tinney said high school students will mostly continue with virtual learning, but will be able to come in to school to get extra help if they need it.
Tinney acknowledged that in some schools, even 20 per cent of students coming back will mean 400 students gathering in a school.
"No matter how we space them out, (that) has some staff worried," Tinney said.
"I think the other piece that teachers are worried about is the perception of doing double service, that they have the responsibility of doing the online learning and they have the responsibility for face to face support."
Tinney said the Surrey school district is still working out its reopening plan. All B.C. school districts need to submit their reopening plan to the Ministry of Education by May 22, but Tinney said the process also involves meeting with representatives of the teachers' union, the BC Teachers' Federation.
Those plans will include protocols on cleaning, physical distancing and other practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ultimately, the decision is up to parents, Tinney said.
"(Teachers and EAs) have done a really good job – it's not perfect – in helping the virtual remote learning work, I think many parents are in the groove now, they feel like hey, I've got it, I'm good, and they weigh that against what they see as the risk of coming back to school and COVID-19," he said.
"That balance is, do you want to come to school and get additional support, or do you want to stay at home learning as you are."