Back to school: too soon, too many gaps says the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association

WatchWith the groundwork for "back to school" laid out by the province, now it's up to the districts and the schools to start preparing. But teachers say if they don't have more time to implement the government's plan, it's bound to fail.

For many parents, Wednesday’s green light from the province that kids can head back to school in September comes as a big relief.

“It’s been tough to wear the mom hat and the teacher hat and the employee hat,” said Sandra, a mother of three kids.

“It’s been a long summer, in some ways it’s been good, but we are feelin’ it,” said Chris Rempel, whose five-year-old heads to kindergarten this fall.

Some teachers in the province are also excited to get back to their classrooms but say the new plan from the government needs more time for them to safely implement.

“It can’t be done on the same day that the students arrive,” said Carolyn Howe, vice-president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA).

“To have a safe restart, and that’s what every teacher wants, we need time to plan before the students return.”

Right now, the Education Minister Rob Fleming said families will hear from school districts by Aug. 26 with specific information about their local schools.

READ MORE: Most students to return to school full time in September in B.C. amid COVD-19 pandemic

But the GVTA is suggesting the province push back the starting date for students to allow plans to be made both at the district, then school levels.

Another big question mark from Wednesday’s announcement is how the province will oversee substitute teachers.

B.C. was already facing a shortage of on-call teachers pre-COVID. Now, in this pandemic, they’ll likely be in more demand than ever.

“There’s going to be higher rates of sick days because teachers cannot attend if you have the sniffles,” said Howe.

“And if we don’t consider it with a good and careful plan, I have no doubt a lot of our substitute teachers will not return, because we know a lot of our substitute teachers are retired teachers.”

Most retired teachers are in the age group more at risk of COVID-19, and union representatives are worried, thousands may not come back in the fall unless they’re made to feel safe.

“One substitute teacher in a district could work with hundreds of students in a week depending on where they’re called,” said Howe.

The GVTA is pitching instead of being called into any school in the district, teachers on call could have a full-time contract to one cohort or school to keep contacts down.


Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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