Students at one of the four district sites being used for childcare for essential service workers, during the suspension of in-class learning, had special protocols throughout the day for washing hands and keeping the classrooms clean. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

B.C. teacher hopes province will change back-to-school plan in fear of COVID transmission

‘My ideal would be that I go back to a classroom where everybody’s wearing masks,’ says Lizanne Foster

Lizanne Foster says her “most immediate” concern about going back to school on Sept. 8 is the Labour Day long weekend.

Foster, a career life connections teacher at Queen Elizabeth Secondary in Surrey, has been voicing her concerns on social media about the B.C. government’s plan for a return for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: B.C. to roll out ‘learning groups’ as part of COVID-19 back-to-school plan

“Everybody’s going to be out. There’s been increased contact all through this pandemic whenever there was a (long weekend) … Then Dr. Henry was out there telling us we need to wait for the two-week incubation period to see how many people got sick, and urging people that if they suspect they’re sick to isolate,” explained Foster.

“But suddenly, there can be this massive mixing of people on Labour Day weekend and then, boom, we’re in school the next day. We are in school during that incubation period … That’s a problem.”

Education Minister Rob Fleming and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’ announced earlier this week that the province is moving to Stage 2 of the B.C. Education Restart Plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year on Sept. 8.

Students will be organized into “learning groups” or “cohorts” made up of a “consistent group of staff and students.” Students will be assigned to groups of up to 60 for elementary school and 120 for high school.

This is to reduce the number of people each student or staff member will come into contact with, reduce the risk of transmission and help with contact tracing for health authorities.

Foster said it’s “terrifying to have to think about choosing your life or your livelihood.”

“That’s why I’m pushing on social media, everywhere, all these questions right now, because I’m hoping in the next five weeks, we can turn something around and get something more palatable that can actually be safe,” she said.

“My ideal (situation) would be that I go back to a classroom where everybody’s wearing masks and the class size is small, like 10 to 12 students. I can spread our 10 to 12 students in my classroom.”

Foster pointed to the public Facebook group, BC voters supporting BC teachers and public education, which has more than 12,000 members, to get a gauge of what teachers and parents are thinking about the plan.

But the bigger problem, she said, is school infrastructure as a whole.

“Every time the provincial health officer talks about schools, I don’t think she knows what actually is in schools… When she says schools can do this and schools can do that, you cannot do it,” said Foster, adding that officials have pointed to essential service workers being able to return to their jobs.

“But essential workers and all those other workers, they do not work in buildings where windows don’t open, where the ventilation system does not work, where taps have to be held down in order to work, they’re not working in portables.”

She said it’s like teachers are in “one reality” and the ministry and health officials are in another.

“They’re telling us the reality we know we live in is not possible.

“Just in the same way restaurants and bars and all these places are getting regular inspections. Hospitals, of course, have to be held to a really high standard, so they get checked all the time,” said Foster.

“Schools need to be checked. They should come in and base the plan for schools on what schools are actually like. This is the most frustrating thing about this plan.”

– With files from Ashley Wadhwani



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusEducationSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

The total number of cases in the region is now at 644

A section of the Trans-Canada Highway north of Lytton. The highway will be closed for eight hours starting at 10 p.m. on Oct. 22. (Photo credit: BC Back Country)
Highway 1 from Spuzzum to Cache Creek to be closed for eight hours starting Oct. 22

Ten-hour closure will allow work to be done on bridge at Spuzzum

(from l) Fraser-Nicola candidates Aaron Sumexheltza (BC NDP), Jonah Timms (BC Green Party), Mike Bhangu (Independent), Dennis Adamson (Independent), and Jackie Tegart (BC Liberals) physically distancing after the All Candidates Forum in Ashcroft on Oct. 15. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Candidates face questions about health care, housing, and more

All five Fraser-Nicola candiates were at a forum in Ashcroft on Oct. 15

(front row, from l) Ashcroft and District Lions Club president Sue Peters; Joan Henderson of The Equality Project; Esther Lang from the Christmas Hamper committee; Trish Schachtel of the South Cariboo E. Fry Society food bank; and Tim Hortons manager Damian Couture with members of the Lions Club. (Photo credit: Gareth Smart)
Smiles all round as Lions raise money for three local groups

Equality Project, food bank, Christmas hamper fund all benefit from Tim Hortons Smile Cookie sales

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read