Disappointing decisions regarding the health and safety of teachers and students were made by trustees at the School District 52 meeting on Dec. 8, the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union said in a Dec. 9 press release.
“The local teachers’ union is requesting more local leadership on COVID-19 school safety,” Gabriel Bureau president of the union said. “At the meeting, local teachers certainly did not see the kind of leadership that’s required.”
The local teachers were calling on their employer to make mask-wearing mandatory in classrooms and increase social distancing where possible. A public relations campaign to increase awareness of the concerns was launched on Dec. 3, with a subsequent car rally of more than 20 vehicles honking and driving through the city on Dec. 10.
Responding to the car rally in their own press release on Dec. 11, SD 52 said it will only implement changes that are approved by Public Health and the measures proposed by PRDTU are similar to those of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, which has already met with Public Health to discuss such concerns.
“Most importantly, as an employer the School District has the responsibility to put the safety of its employees first and foremost, equal to the safety of students and other members of the public,” Bureau said. “Local teachers have recommended specific improvements, including a call for a mask mandate in School District 52 classrooms and schools.”
“The School District clearly has the authority to exceed the minimum standards already in place,” Bureau said.
SD 52 media release signed by James Horne board chair, and Andrew Samoil SD 52 superintendent states,
“The Board of Education appreciates the concerns and proposals of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union. In considering the union’s motions, the Board must take into account its statutory responsibility for the safety and education of students, and its obligations for the safety of staff as mandated by WorkSafe BC.”
“To ensure the district takes appropriate action to address the current pandemic, the district seeks and adheres to expert advice. That advice, which has been coordinated by the Ministry of Education, comes from Public Health and from WorkSafe BC,” SD 52 said.
Bureau acknowledges SD 52 already exceeds some requirements in several ways, however, more is definitely needed according to the union president.
“The School District should act now to require masks in schools and classrooms, and to provide teachers, staff, and students with other safety improvements.”
Living in the midst of the pandemic has been a trying time for everyone, SD 52 said and believes schools are safe for staff and students. Public Health has also stated that schools are safe the school board said.
“The district will continue to implement changes as directed by the Ministry of Education and Public Health during this constantly changing situation,” the school district statement said. “The district acts and complies with the advice and orders of these authorities. We encourage all families and employees to review the most recent safety plan for their schools, which are available on the district’s website”
There were several motions made at the Board meeting Bureau said, and if passed would have improved school safety.
“None of the school safety motions passed. By failing to act, the Board is failing its responsibility for the safety of its employees and the students in our schools,” Bureau said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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