Schools across our country are empty right now for the summer holidays, but in just over a month the playgrounds will be packed.
“If I see the numbers rising in school transmissions then I’m definitely going to keep my daughter at home,” said one Victoria mother.
Yet as COVID-19 cases soar, B.C. isn’t making any changes to the provincial back-to-school safety plan.
“Currently we don’t, and obviously we’re continuing to work with our provincial committee,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday, when asked if there were any changes coming.
“We also know that schools are not a high-risk environment for the transmission of COVID.”
Some doctor’s in the United States disagree. In Louisiana, kids are now making up 20% of all new cases.
“We are seeing children fall ill that we simply didn’t see in the first year of the pandemic before the delta variant,” said Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at New Orleans Children’s Hospital.
“And many have been ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. Some even to the ICU.”
And teachers in B.C. are frustrated, that risk isn’t being recognized.
“The lack of acknowledgment that the congregation of students and staff leads to more infections, is really frustrating. I don’t think acknowledging it necessarily means we need to shut down schools, but why aren’t we acknowledging it?” said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teacher’s Association.
“Other provinces are, other countries are. Victoria and B.C. should be acknowledging that it is possible for spread in schools, and children do get COVID and the adults they work with do get COVID. It’s so frustrating at this point.”
To CHEK News B.C.’s Ministry of Education pointed to a successful vaccination program as to why there’s no need for immediate changes.
However, one province is taking further actions like mandating masks and ventilation upgrades.
“We’re providing access to those HEPA filters to further improve air quality and to help keep these schools as safe as possible,” said Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s education minister, who announced today $25 million towards ventilation upgrades in Ontario schools.
Instead here in B.C., 25 million dollars was announced in June to enhance cleaning measures and to improve student mental health services.
“In the schools, we have not seen a proper response around ventilation,” said Waldron.
And some B.C. teachers are concerned as cases surge, that the province is sitting stagnant, with no plan for how schools should manage a possible outbreak come September.
“As far as I know there is no plan. I haven’t seen any update, anything that says ok there’s this delta variant now, not everybody is vaccinated, kids 12 and under aren’t vaccinated for sure,” said Waldron
“There should be concrete plans based in the science.”
The Greater Victoria’s Teachers Association is calling for funding to update HVAC systems and pushing for vaccination clinics in schools once the kids return to the classroom.