Let’s talk about schools which our PHO says are safe for children. She bases this statement on the following:
1) There are layers of protection; and,
2) Schools are not public places.
I am beginning to believe that both our PHO and our Government are delusional or perhaps they have been smoking some of our finest!
Let us first talk about layers of protection. The first layer is always social distancing. Social distancing does not exist in schools because the current school plan does not allow a reduction in the density in classrooms. Even though there are numerous ways to reduce density, the plan adopted by the Ministry totally ignored applying an ounce of creativity or a single dollar to enable social distancing in schools. Hence, teachers are often faced with thirty-one students in a class sitting cheek to jowl.
The second layer of protection is physical barriers. Not only have physical barriers not been provided to most teachers, but rather, teachers who have made specific requests for these have been denied. The second layer of protection is virtually non existent.
The third layer of protection includes improving ventilation. This cannot happen in older schools without major renovations and even some of the newer school buildings have classrooms with no access to fresh air so to suggest this layer of protection exists is fantasy.
The fourth layer of protection is one that has been mandated for all public places in the province. Wearing masks is deemed to be essential in every public place in the province except schools! This is madness and puts every teacher’s life in jeopardy. The government appears not to care about this because after all, they passed legislation that protected them from any suit alleging negligence related to the pandemic.
Clearly, any suggestion that there are layers of protection is an outright falsehood which leaves us with the PHO’s outrageous claim that schools are not public places because people do not wander in and out and because people are with the same people each day. This statement shows a complete naivete about how schools’ function. Last week, because the quarter system was a key part of the current plan, cohorts were reconstituted and some students are with an entirely new group of classmates. Moreover, teachers-on-call substitute in a variety of schools, a practice that was halted with part time employees in long term care centers. But in schools the practice is deemed acceptable. The only conclusion is that the Government does not care! I am horrified by the complete lack protection afforded school employees let alone the jeopardy every student is in every day in school. SCHOOLS ARE NOT SAFE!
Every day we hear of more school exposures. Ten more schools in Surrey received exposure notices today and often these notices are a week late. How many children have been infected in the meantime? Look at Delta Secondary with two full grade nine classes in isolation including teachers and educational assistants. Also, in Delta, McCloskey Elementary is considering a functional closure because of a staff shortage. Moscrop, in Burnaby, is reported to have had hundreds of notices with hundreds in isolation and hundreds getting infected. More notices to Lynmour in North Van; GW Graham in Chilliwack; Brookswood, Richard Bullpitt, and Peterson Road in Langley; Kwalikum in Qualicum Beach; the list goes on and on! Transmission is happening in some of these schools and schools are contributing to the spread. The PHO and the Minister of Health seem unwilling to accept reality. We are making the same mistake that was found in the report on the SARS outbreak in Toronto. We are not applying the precautionary principle!
If we were to apply this principle, we would have mandated masks in schools long ago. We would have an announcement in the upcoming press conference on Friday that schools would have an extended Christmas break beginning no later than December 10th and continuing until January 11th. This would enable parents to make plans for the children and for all families to isolate in their bubble so they might have the chance to have a family Christmas. One only needs to look at all the sold-out ferry reservations in the week before Christmas to know people are planning get togethers no matter what the PHO suggests. Extending the Christmas break in schools would recognize reality and slow the spread. It would be a sound application of the precautionary principle.
The time has come for us to recognize that our teachers are exhausted and other school employees are frightened. We are gambling unnecessarily with the health of every person in our schools. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different answer”. We have a Government and PHO so dug in on the current school plan that their thinking is verging on insanity. It is time to think differently. Our numbers are out of control, our hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise, and our local businesses are heading to bankruptcy. We need to act now! We need to give immediate attention to our school situation.
To do otherwise would be a travesty!