B.C. teachers’ union pushes for mask mandate in elementary schools

B.C. teachers' union pushes for mask mandate in elementary schools
WatchThe BC Teachers' Federation is again pushing for a wider mask mandate in the province's schools, and the union is backing up its demand with statistics from WorkSafe BC. The BCTF says the numbers clearly show elementary teachers are at a much higher risk compared with other teachers in the public school system. Mary Griffin reports.

As the number of elementary school teachers becoming infected with COVID-19 rises, the union representing those teachers says it wants a mandatory mask rule for all students, not just older ones.

BC Teachers’ Federation President Teri Mooring said a policy change is necessary in light of new statistics from WorkSafe BC.

“Using this data we can see that elementary school teachers are three times as likely to file a WorkSafe claim for COVID-19 as their secondary counterparts,” Mooring said Wednesday.

As of March 11, WorkSafe BC approved 80 claims from elementary school teachers for COVID-19.

That’s compared to 25 for secondary school teachers — and the number is rising.

“Students and teachers work very closely together. Students and education assistants work very closely together,” Mooring said. “There isn’t the ability to physically distance in elementary schools where there is with the older students.”

Mooring said 89 per cent of elementary school teachers’ COVID-19 claims have been allowed.

That’s compared to 71 per cent for all occupations.

B.C.’s elementary school teachers only trail health care workers in acute and long-term care facilities in the number of claims filed for covid-19.

Yet B.C. Premier John Horgan said the risk remains low in the province’s classrooms.

“The number of applications to WorkSafe is extremely small. Particularly relative to other sectors of the economy,” he said.

The push from the teachers’ union comes as an entire Vancouver school, Lord Strathcona Elementary,  is the subject of an exposure warning from Vancouver Coastal Health.

The school is among the province’s elementary schools where masks are not required in the classroom for students.

But some parents would like to see a change in the mask mandate, including Saanich parent Hayden Bardels, who has a child in Grade 1.

“He’s always got a mask. But he only has to wear it during transitions. But I think they should be wearing it all the time.”

For now, without a mandate, it’s up to families to decide whether or not to send their kids back to school in a mask.

READ MORE: Variant in schools means it’s time for all students in B.C. to wear masks: union

Mary GriffinMary Griffin
Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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