The onus for the spread of COVID-19 will be placed on teachers after a new request from the Ministry of Health for them to provide proof of vaccination Gabrielle Bureau, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union, said on Jan. 17.
Should a public health order be issued all B.C. school staff to be prepared to provide their COVID-19 vaccination status to their respective school districts or be considered to be positive.
If the measure is implemented, it would be “unfortunate,” Bureau said. “It puts the blame on teachers and other support staff for the transmission of COVID in schools.
This measure will only be issued if some type of outbreak or a large number of people test positive, Andrew Samoil, SD 52 superintendent, said during the School District 52 school board meeting, on Jan. 18.
“Again, this order has not been given, but we have been asked to prepare for this,” the superintendent said.
Bureau said while the new request may be “acceptable” it must be used as a last recourse only.
“Safety at schools is of course extremely important, but this type of measure takes away the right to privacy,” the teachers union president said. “There’s plenty of other things that would be way more efficient than this.”
For starters, Bureau said, the number one thing the district could do to make the environment safer is to improve school ventilation systems.
“In this district, they don’t meet the requirements of the ministry,” he said, citing a ventilation system overview report on the SD 52 website. He said schools are not hitting the recommended filtration rating.
“District unit ventilators and air handlers were not originally designed to handle a MERV 13 rated (or higher) filters. It restricts the airflow too much and would cause motors to malfunction. The finer mesh filters would also reduce the actual amount of fresh air allowed into the room because fans were not designed to pull the air through such fine filtration. Current unit ventilators are using MERV 8 rated filters, and are changed at more frequent intervals four to five times per year,” the September 2021 report states, about Charles Hays Secondary School.
Another effective measure would be to provide each student and staff member with N95 masks, Bureau said.
Currently, SD 52 has a stock of 20,000 adult and 20,000 child three-layer masks in their warehouse, which are being distributed, Samoil said.
School staff are already known to have a vaccination rate of more than 90 per cent and should instead receive priority access to booster shots, Bureau said.
“The Ministry of Education informed us that the district will be receiving rapid antigen tests, or a COVID test, and every staff member will be provided with two of these kits,” Samoil said.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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