Skip to content

Teachers need time to prepare for a possible shift to online learning, says Powell River and District Teachers’ Association president

Province delays school reopenings due to omicron variant; Teachers advocate for enhanced safety plans
STAFFING CONCERNS: qathet region teachers want time to prepare for the realities of returning to school with the omicron variant of COVID-19, which has spread pervasively throughout the province during recent weeks.

School District 47’s teachers are hopeful the provincial government is listening to teacher concerns about reopening of schools after the winter break.

However, it would have been preferable to delay the restart by at least a day to allow schools to organize without students, said Izi Loveluck, president of the Powell River and District Teachers’ Association.

The Province of BC, in a media release, stated a full return to school for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will be delayed until January 10 to give public health and BC schools additional time to adapt to the impacts of the COVID-19 omicron variant on communities and schools, and to implement enhanced safety plans to support the continuation of in-class learning.

Loveluck said at this time, it is not known how many COVID-19 cases the much-needed holiday break will bring to the qathet region. She said teachers were exhausted.

“Thus far, Powell River has escaped the surges in other areas, but omicron is so much more infectious, and is causing an increased number of infections in younger children, as well as breakthrough infections in even double-vaccinated people; fortunately, these are mostly mild for those vaccinated,” said Loveluck. “Because of this, teachers need time to prepare for a possible shift to online learning, which is not something we want or advocate for, as students learn better at school. It is a wise decision to allow teachers time to do this so that learning can continue if the number of COVID-19 cases increases to the point that Powell River schools cannot be safely staffed.”

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 18 COVID-19 cases in the Powell River local health area from December 19 to 25.

Loveluck said it is a disappointment that some teacher concerns, such as prioritizing boosters, N95 masks being made available, and rapid testing in schools, are still not in place.

“Powell River teachers want these things so they can be as protected as possible in order to both continue teaching in person and to protect their students,” said Loveluck.

According to the provincial government media release, during the delayed opening, schools will be open for limited numbers of students in particular need, and districts will be communicating to families about how this process will work.

“Schools have safety protocols in place that have kept students and staff in school over the past two years, but as the pandemic changes, our protocols must change, too,” stated Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “That’s why schools will be implementing enhanced public-health measures to ensure we can continue the in-person learning that is so important for well-being and mental health.”

Education minister Jennifer Whiteside stated that the government knows how important it is for students to return to safe, in-person learning.

“This extra time will allow the ministry of education and public health to better understand the impact of the omicron variant on the education system, and school communities to prepare for students returning to class with enhanced safety measures,” added Whiteside. “Safety is our top priority, and we’re going to keep working with public health to ensure the right measures continue to be in place to keep students and staff safe.”