For immediate release
February 4, 2021
VICTORIA, B.C. - Today the Minister of Education announced masks will be required in B.C. schools, but with many exceptions. The B.C. Green Caucus welcomes improvements to safety and the funding behind it, but is concerned today's announcement will not clarify expectations and potentially contribute to continued confusion within school communities.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult year and the efforts taken by students, teachers, staff, and families to adapt and support each other has been incredible,” said Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley.
“As the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has stated, today’s changes will make schools safer, but they do not include improvements to school density, ventilation, or the ongoing inadequacy of contact tracing.
“The Minister noted these improved guidelines are based on the best available science, which is critical. However, with the delay in the vaccine rollout and evolving and more contagious variants of COVID-19 detected in our province, I do wish we were taking a more precautionary approach when it came to the risk of airborne transmission, as evidence indicates there is a higher risk particularly in indoor, crowded, and poorly-ventilated spaces. Likewise, the decision to base mask guidelines for grade 6 and 7 students on whether they are in middle school or elementary, instead of their age, seems inconsistent with an evidence-based approach.
“COVID-19 communications and guidelines that are heavy with exceptions, grey areas, and contradictions makes compliance difficult and stressful for those trying to do their part. I was hoping today’s announcement would provide clarity around mask wearing expectations and improve safety, including supporting the diverse needs and abilities of students. I’m not certain the amended guidelines provide that clarity, but I welcome any progress and will continue to advocate on behalf of students, teachers, staff, and families.”
In addition to a mask mandate, the B.C. Green Caucus has been pushing the B.C. government to support measures to improve ventilation, reduce density, and develop more hybrid learning options. In the summer, MLA Furstenau advocated for increased resources for online learning and access to PPE for teachers. In the winter 2020 legislative session, she asked the Minister why government was not releasing comprehensive, clear, and timely data about exposures in schools and why, despite growing exposure notices, safety measures weren’t being increased.
B.C. Green Caucus
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