Tom Kertes vice president of Prince Rupert District Teachers Union and President Gabriel Bureau are unified on Dec. 4 in the mandatory mask request made by teachers in SD 52. The Road Rally for Safe Schools on Dec. 10 is part of a public awareness campaign run by the union.

Tom Kertes vice president of Prince Rupert District Teachers Union and President Gabriel Bureau are unified on Dec. 4 in the mandatory mask request made by teachers in SD 52. The Road Rally for Safe Schools on Dec. 10 is part of a public awareness campaign run by the union.

Road Rally for Safe Schools

Prince Rupert teachers union calls for increased social distancing and mandatory masks in schools

Teachers in Prince Rupert are calling on School District 52 to pursue higher health and safety standards for students in the district with the implementation of mandatory mask-wearing and better social distancing measures.

“Local teachers are united around school safety,” Gabriel Bureau, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union (PRDTU) said. “We want schools to be safe for everyone – students and staff alike. That’s why we’re calling for a mask mandate in local schools.”

One part of the public awareness campaign is the planned “Road Rally for Safe Schools” on Dec. 10 starting at 4 p.m. Teachers and the public are invited to participate in their vehicles, meeting at 7th Ave. East and Green St. for a caravan-style procession through the city ending outside of the SD52 office building.

At a Nov. 21 general meeting, members of the union, which represents all teachers, voted to recommend specific school safety improvements including that masks be mandated in schools whenever physical distancing is not possible, with exceptions provided for medical and other student needs.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert teachers support Labour Relations Board action

The PRDTU believes that the unique needs of the North Coast region make a mask mandate and other measures especially urgent for SD52.

“We don’t need to wait for the government to act … we don’t need to wait for the government to make schools safer,” Bureau told The Northern View.

He met with representatives from the school board on Nov. 30 who he said listened to concerns very respectfully. The PRDTU is now waiting on a response.

Bureau said the union is hoping parents will get behind the teachers to support the recommendations.

“It is for the parents and grandparents. It is about making this community safer. It about encouraging children and teenagers to wear their masks.”

“We were lucky when a month ago when there was the exposure that it didn’t spread. On one hand, you can say the measures are working,” Bureau said, but he clarifies that the cohort system is just an easier way to trace and does not stop the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: Back to class teachers concerns are high, Prince Rupert District Teachers Union said

“We need local leadership on school safety, especially given the remote and rural location of many communities served by our schools, the number of vulnerable students and families in the district, and the importance of protecting Elders and other community members,” Bureau said.

“Teachers in Prince Rupert and the region served by School District 52 want the community to know that we value school safety first and foremost for all our students. That’s why the teachers are calling for improvements to school safety.”

School District 52 chairperson James Horne said he could not comment on the issue at this time.

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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