In just three weeks, schools across Vancouver Island will reopen.
But not everyone is happy with what will happen once classes are in session again.
Winona Waldron, the president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, said she would like to see the Ministry of Education implement a mandatory mask policy at all times in schools for students in grades four to twelve.
Earlier this week, the province announced masks will be required for staff, middle and secondary students in high traffic areas such as buses and in common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.
“I am concerned about medical accommodations for teachers who are immune-compromised, or live with family members with significant health challenges,” Waldron said.
Parents of children with health issues are also concerned.
Going back to school during a pandemic isn’t an option for them. The only alternative for A’Laura Rowe’s 10-year-old daughter, Zaelyn, is distance education.
“As far as in the public education, there are none. The only options we have are through external online schooling, which in turn if I put her into those, I have to withdraw her from the public education system,” Rowe said.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education says that it’s continuing to work with teachers, parents, support staff and education partners on the steering committee on the safe restart plan. And for students who can’t return to their schools, the Ministry states that “…it’s working with education partners to find creative solutions to support student choice while keeping students connected to their community school.”
However, the union is pushing for a combination of in-class and online teaching. Waldron said this would keep students in their home schools, but also keep compromised staff and students safe.
“Now I think the numbers would need to be played around with a little bit, but I believe there’s enough teachers out there wishing to teach online and enough students out there, and families who are significantly concerned, to be able to match those numbers up and make it work,” Waldron said.
School districts across the province are submitting their plans to the Ministry of Education this week.