With a COVID-19 vaccine still some time away for many people, the president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association is calling for enhanced preventive measures in schools.
“We’re looking for schools to be as safe as possible,” said Winona Waldron. “I don’t think we’re through COVID yet. It’s exciting that there’s a vaccine on the horizon but we know that there’s been limited supply.”
She said there is room to improve safety measures in the Greater Victoria School District.
“It’s not that I think schools are a dangerous place, I just am seeing the amount of exposures that are happening across the province,” Waldron said. “Certainly in Victoria we’ve done well, but I think we’re getting close to the finish line and let’s cross that line being as absolutely safe as possible.”
She wants to see more done here with certain steps, especially with wearing masks. Waldron said the teachers’ group would like to see all students and staff required to wear non-medical masks when physical distancing is not possible, with exemptions for those who are unable to wear them.
“Kids are wearing them when they go to the grocery store, when they go to the mall, when they go to other public places,” she said. “Let’s just make it the rule, make it clear, make it everywhere.
“It could only improve safety.”
Superintendent Shelley Green said the district adheres to all health-and-safety guidelines that have come from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the public-health system.
“The biggest piece for us is to always make sure that people are reminding each other,” Green said. “Anybody who comes from the outside into schools is reminded of those protocols, they are all posted everywhere.”
Waldron said teachers are also concerned with the number of in-person meetings being held instead of safer online meetings.
“It’s always possible unless it’s an emergency meeting,” she said. “The district has a Zoom licence.”
Green said that there has been a definite shift to meeting via Zoom.
Transparent barriers are generating discussion, as well, Waldron said.
“At the beginning of the school year in September, the district said they would supply barriers to all educational staff that couldn’t physically distance from the kids, the students they were working with,” she said. “But over the course of the year that’s shifted to schools being responsible for that.”
Waldron said another issue is who is responsible for disinfecting toys and other classroom items.
“It’s really not clear and we cannot pin down protocol from the district,” she said. “Is it the custodian’s responsibility? Is it the teacher’s responsibility? Is it someone else’s responsibility? We want it very clear that those things are being disinfected.”