'That's a huge amount of reorganizing work': Teachers and parents react to B.C.'s back-to-school plan
VANCOUVER -- When Stephen Price returns to his elementary class, he’s going to have a full room.
“I’m nervous,” the teacher told CTV News Vancouver, “We’re having a tough time because we’re not epidemiologists, wondering what is the risk that we’re really being asked to take on.”
The province laid out its back-to-school plan Wednesday, with strict guidelines for districts, teachers and parents to follow. The plan includes limiting who students interact with, to what the province is calling "cohorts." In elementary schools, that will be a maximum of 60 and in high school 120.
“That’s a huge amount of reorganizing work in my school,” said Price. “All of those folks have now been given their design constraints and we’re only now just starting to say okay, how do these design constraints work? Can we make them work?”
At a news conference announcing the plan, Andrea Sinclair, president of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils told parents to “feel assured that as things progress over the coming weeks, the Ministry of Education will be working directly with the BC CPAC and all our education partners to ensure that safety remains a top priority.”
But not all parents do feel assured, especially as COVID-19 cases increase across the province.
“As of today, I would not send my kid back to school,” said Nancy Smith.
She’d prefer to have her 9-year-old son continue to learn online.
“If the teachers stayed home, they would be a lot safer teaching the kids online for even another month until COVID worldwide calms down.”
B.C.'s NDP government is also getting criticism from across the aisle.
“A lot of this seems to be downloading all of the work onto school districts to come up with the plans,” said Dan Davies, BC Liberal MLA and the party's education critic.
He said there was also very little discussed in terms of personal protective equipment.
“I have had a lot of teachers reach out to me - former colleagues from when I did teach - that are really concerned that they won't have enough PPE or it’s not going to be covered," he said. "Again, the number one priority is to make sure teachers are safe and our children are safe in schools."
For Price, PPE is going to be encouraged in his classroom.
“Masks are really important if we can’t keep the physical distancing," he said. "With 30 kids in my class, physical distancing is not going to happen at the same level of effectiveness as in June when I had 12 or maybe 15 students."
He wants to create a “culture of mask wearing” to provide that last line of defence, especially during times when physical distancing is difficult.
“I would love to see a stronger message from the health authorities to wear masks,” said Price.
He said he’s grateful for additional funding from the province to cover things like PPE, but said he doesn’t believe “that the $46 million that the province has allocated is adequate for the design challenge that they have given us as teachers.”