As new COVID-19 cases soar and new variants arrive on Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria teachers are calling for more precautions as school returns from spring break.
“There’s definite anxiety out there,” said Winona Waldron, Greater Victoria Teacher’s Association. “The week before spring break saw double the amount of exposures in Victoria schools that we have experienced since September, we know COVID cases have continued to rise, so there is some anxiety what spring break looked like for some families.”
They are calling for increased measures like those implemented in Surrey’s school district Saturday alongside Fraser Health.
Masks are now mandatory for all teachers in Surrey, and masks will also be mandatory for students grade four and up, and strongly recommended for kindergarten to grade 3.
READ MORE: Surrey schools expand mask mandate: older students must wear them at all times indoors
Surrey’s school district is the hardest hit in the province with COVID-19 cases. Waldron says there is no reason to wait for things to spiral out of control before implementing the steps.
On Monday, the recommendation from the GVTA will be brought forward.
“It suggests that here Island Health could make the same sort of decision with SD61,” said Waldron.
“I am hoping at tomorrow’s board meeting our trustees really consider how to direct staff and how to move that forward to make sure all of us stay safe.”
Some parents strongly feel the current precautions have been more than adequate.
Greater Victoria’s School District, SD61, did not respond to CHEK’s request for comment.
Carolyn Howe, a Victoria kindergarten teacher and vice president of the GVTA, had an exposure warning at her school before the break and is also worried about schools reopening.
“It was very concerning right before spring break, so I don’t feel good about waiting and seeing, I rather come back as safe as possible,” she said.
“We know people have been exposed to more things, restrictions have been loosened. So having more layers of safety in schools is a good idea.”
Island Health’s top doctor warned that things could turn much worse, and that young people age 20-39 are increasingly responsible for COVID-19 cases.
READ MORE: Spring break, young people driving recent wave of COVID-19 infections on Vancouver Island
For Victoria’s parent Jenn Turnbull, whose kids would have been in the same school with the exposure as Howe, sending both immune-compromised kids back is now off the table.
“I was feeling pretty confident about sending my youngest kid in kindergarten to transition to indoor learning after the march break,” said Turnbull.
“But with the new variants and the big increase in positive cases, I now have to reconsider that and I defiantly am not conformable sending him back to indoor learning.”