Parents, teachers take covid action health authorities don’t


WHY WASN’T I TOLD I WAS AT RISK? That’s what a teacher at Sentinel secondary in West Vancouver wants to know. The fact that she wasn’t is the basis of her formal complaint to Work Safe BC.

Employers have a legal duty to inform workers of risks at work. But, school and health authorities did not inform the teacher that a student in one of her classes tested positive for Covid-19. She only found out by accident, when the infected student called her to get his homework assignments.

The teacher got herself tested once her student told her of his infection. She tested positive.

Her union supported her action with Work Safe BC, but advised her not to speak publicly about what happened for fear of retribution from the province.

Notice without specifics is useless

“The teacher is hugely frustrated,” said Renee Willock, president of the West Vancouver Teachers Association. “She could have gone out... and spread this [virus] further.”

“We find out now that a teacher discovers that they were exposed to a case in their cohort from their students—their students were the one notifying them, not the health authority, because the health authority didn’t include the teacher in the contact tracing,” she said.

Willock says that a notice that there was “possible exposure in our school community” had no value. “It doesn’t tell you anything,” she said. “The teacher had expected the health authority would contact her and they didn’t.”

Eight students from the class with the infected student had to go into isolation

The health authority’s missteps did not end there.

The authority did notify parents at the school about the student’s infection. However the authority did not tell parents that the teacher had also tested positive.

“There needs to be a real investigation in my view.” said BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring, “as to how this happened and why families, teachers and the public haven’t been made aware of the situation much more quickly.”

Widespread criticism

The West Vancouver teacher’s case is just one example in a rolling barrage of complaints from parents about how public health authorities are handling the pandemic.

More than 900 parents signed an open letter to B.C.’s provincial health officer and the chief medical officer of Vancouver Coastal Health asking them to improve the strategy for responding to positive COVID-19 cases in schools.

Another major concern is the decision to remove some symptoms from a checklist parents are instructed to use in order to determine when to keep their kids home. This has fuelled the fear that the province’s guidelines are too lax.

“The rulebook seems to be continuously changing,” added Willock. “We know that there are cases in our schools and yet the local health authority page says that there are none.”

Parents lead protest

Parent dissatisfaction with covid safety measures in schools continues. Over 800 parents from across BC demonstrated that dissatisfaction October 20 by keeping their kids home.

They set up a group called “Right to Fight COVID-19 in BC” that is calling for mandatory masks in schools, proper ventilation systems for classrooms, and smaller class sizes to reduce the risk of transmission.

“Our children and teachers aren’t expendable, or a science experiment,” states the Facebook page for the group.

Tammy Loehndorf, one of the parents involved in the group, commented, “We actually have the power to pull our kids from that environment, to make a statement and to make parents feel connected with each other.”

Loehndorf says the BC idea is catching on. She says parents in Quebec are working to hold a similar protest on October 29.

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