General unrest as parents and teachers prepare for back to school during COVID-19
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
It’s not easy sending your kids back to school—especially during a pandemic. For many concerned parents, the Vancouver School Board is making optional and transitional at-home learning modules for kids returning to school on September 10.
The transitional option would allow students to begin the school year at home with a choice to switch to in-person learning. It would also allow them to keep their spots in their classes by doing all their work at home with weekly check-ins from their teachers.
The decision was made after a survey by the BC government asking parents about their children’s return to school. In the survey, nearly 70 percent of parents said they planned on sending their kids back to school in September. Twenty nine percent said they would prefer at-home focused learning.
But the parents who choose the at-home learning model may not be able to send their kids back to school till late September. In an article with Global News, Vancouver School Board Superintendent Suzanna Hoffman says this transitional program may not be available until September 21, stating that more time is needed to ensure everything is in place for the program to begin.
This new transitional model was implemented due to many parents still feeling that letting their children return to school could be unsafe. According to the CBC, two BC fathers, Gary Shuster and Bernard Trest, are among the parents who still have concerns about the safety measures. On August 29, the two dads filed a lawsuit to the BC Supreme Court to curb schools from reopening until tougher safety measures have been put in place. They claim that the back-to-school plan now puts teachers, students, and the community at risk of endangerment. Failing to enforce mandatory face masks, physical distancing, reduced class sizes, and optional online learning are all things cited for contention of the new back to school plan.
It’s not only the parents who feel unsafe. Many BC teachers are also feeling the anxiety of the back to school season. Both parents and teachers attended a rally on August 29 to protest the back to school plan saying it does not address the safety issues and concerns raised by teachers and parents. Teachers have also called for tougher COVID-19 safety measures such as mandatory mask wearing, smaller class sizes, physical distancing, access to personal protective equipment, an option for at-home learning, as well as extra paid sick days for teachers in the case of an outbreak.
Despite parents and teachers concerns, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry insists that per the safety guidelines put in place, it is okay for students to return to school. She says she is confident in the plan and that to prolong school for children any longer can have a lifelong impact on them.
For those worried about the 50-person social distancing rule, Henry says schools do not have to follow the same guidelines as adult situations as they are controlled environments. “That will be in a small group, the same numbers of teachers and students and interaction is contained and limited, so it is a different situation,” she said in a North Shore News (NSN) article.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry both stress that the recent increase in cases is no cause for concern with schools reopening. “We have 28 people in acute care as compared to 149 on April 5, and 10 people in critical care, as compared to 72 on April 5,” Dix said in the same North Shore News article.