There is something systemically wrong in the PHO and it is being illuminated by the dedication and commitment of the Caulfeild parents in West Vancouver as well as numerous other parents throughout the province. We should be celebrating the high degree of involvement of these parents because the school system always works better when parents are involved with their childrens’ education. Yet what we are seeing is their concerns being either minimized or totally ignored by the PHO. In the last briefing she suggested there may not have been any in school transmission. Parents know better, they live in a close-knit community and they communicate with one another in hopes of keeping their children safe. The PHO said she had not seen the parent letter with over 900 signatures. In the previous week she also said she had not seen the BCTF letter expressing serious concerns. This is a ridiculous deflection because if it is true, someone in the office should be fired for not keeping the PHO informed.
Parents had two specific and reasonable requests which seem to have just been ignored or passed off as insignificant by the person in whom we must have trust. Underlying all of this is a failure to communicate. It appears that the PHO, the Trustees and the Superintendents are hiding behind the issue of privacy. They keep saying the individuals have a right to privacy and no one has disputed that on an individual basis. But we seem to have forgotten that the issue of privacy arises from a law known as FOIPOP. FOIPOP stands for Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy. The lead part of this law is ‘freedom of information’ which is being restricted beyond reason. Parents just want to make informed decisions for their own children. To do so they need to be given full information about the health issues in their child’s school and in their child’s classroom. Currently they are not getting that and the use of the privacy portion of this law is being used to cover up the full extent of the issues around Covid. This is unacceptable. As I have said so many times we can do better.
Trustees need to step up and say: “We are elected to be responsible for the children in our community! We want better communication with our parents, and we want a say in how this is handled!” This virus is hitting communities in different ways and the Board and Superintendents know their communities better than any central authority. But, by declaring a state of emergency, the NDP government appears to have silenced the local authorities and given the PHO free reign. As a result, children, school staff and communities have been put at risk while being kept in the dark. Something needs to change, and we should not have to wait for the results of an unnecessary election to make a change. Parents and local authorities need to have a greater role and they need to be heard. Remember, Freedom of Information precedes Protection of Privacy!
We also need to create a better situation for all by re-thinking how we can improve the learning model so that it improves both safety and education. Today the NDP said they were handing out “free” money to the tune of $1000 to individuals making less than $80,000. At the risk of sounding political, I suspect this amount could create truly safe schools by doing what they should have done earlier: reduce class sizes to no more than 15 per class for the period while the pandemic exists. Use remote learning in a more appropriate way at the senior grades. Clearly, the cohort model is an illusion that has forced an untenable teaching and learning situation upon the system. Five-hour classes and two hour and forty-minute classes at secondary schools are not the best situations for either teaching or learning. Taking a subject for ten weeks at the beginning of one school year and not seeing that subject again until the last ten weeks of the following year is folly for learning continuity. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than protecting our children! Again, we can do better, and we should plan for these changes for a January implementation.
I understand there now may be two thousand signatures on the letter. Districts should be celebrating such terrific parent involvement. Let us seize this moment and examine every aspect of the approach to schools in the pandemic. Let’s take a second look at a mask mandate, at the communication model, at the quarter system and at the way we ensure both student and staff safety. Use our rich community resources to do a better job to instill both trust and pride. Trustees and Superintendents, your parents have taken the lead, and it is now time for you to answer the call. Demand change from the PHO and demand change from the government (whatever the party). Trustees, you were elected and Superintendents, you were appointed to LEAD! It is time you did so and got behind your parents whom you are supposed to be serving. Do better for the children!