Op/Ed – BCTF – Significant Majority of Teachers Polled Say Health and Safety Measures Inadequate

BCTF President Teri Mooring

Burnaby (BCTF President Terri Mooring) – Across the province, most teachers and students are now back in classrooms. To understand their experiences, and to continue to advocate for the health and safety measures necessary to keep our school communities safe, the BCTF conducted a quick poll of members. The poll was open from September 17 to 21 and responses were received from all but two school districts. The poll gathered 8,952 responses, representing classroom teachers (70%), specialist teachers (21%), teachers teaching on call (5%) and other teaching positions. 

You can read the snapshot report on the findings at https://bctf.ca/publications/ResearchReports.aspx?id=58256.

The poll asked teachers about the adequacy of the health and safety measures in place at their worksites. Only 7% of respondents who have returned to in-person instruction said the measures were “completely adequate.” A total of 60% of teachers said the health and safety conditions in their school setting was either “completely inadequate” or “somewhat inadequate.”

BCTF President Teri Mooring said the survey outlines how the Ministry of Education’s restart plan has fallen short in making sure teachers have the necessary health and safety measures in place during this pandemic.

“A significant majority of teachers are working in schools without the necessary safety measures in place to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19,” said Mooring. “These are not surprising results. Teachers have been raising concerns since July 29 that the Ministry of Education’s restart plan wasn’t good enough. Many teachers are working in classrooms that have no space for physical distancing or access to fresh air. In many cases there has been no reduction in class sizes or school density. Coupled with a weak mask mandate and it’s clear why so many teachers are reporting unsafe conditions.”

While the poll was taken at the end of the second week of school, Mooring explained that things have not improved as BC enters the second month of schools.

“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. We need the health authorities and school districts to be doing a better job at informing teachers and parents about possible exposures.”

The BCTF continues to call for a stronger mask mandate as well as smaller class sizes and equitable hybrid education options to reduce density in schools and allow people to maintain safe distances.

The Federation has also sent a letter to the Office of the Provincial Health Officer that you can read here https://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/CCD/Ltr%20to%20Dr.%20Bonnie%20Henry-September%2023%202020.pdf

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