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'We are not safe': Surrey teachers appeal to Dr. Bonnie Henry for stronger COVID-19 school protocol

With over 75,000 students in K-12 in 130 schools, some Surrey campuses are so "severely crowded that there are as many as 20 portables on the fields or parking lots."
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The letter notes that over 6,000 teachers are employed in the Surrey School District, which is also the largest in B.C. Photo: classroom / Getty Images

The Surrey Teachers Association has written an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that calls for stronger coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocol in schools. 

Matt Wesphal, a member of the association, took to Twitter on Dec. 15 to share the letter to B.C.'s top doctor. He captioned his post: "We are not safe."

The letter notes that over 6,000 teachers are employed in the Surrey School District, which is also the largest in B.C. With over 75,000 students in K-12 in 130 schools, some are so "severely crowded that there are as many as 20 portables on the fields or parking lots."

While there are Plexiglass barriers in offices, there are none in classes, explains the STA. Worsening weather has also led to less physical education outside, which means less opportunity for safe face-to-face interaction.

"We can't control whether kids are sent to school sick, especially if COVID-19 victims are infectious before they are symptomatic."

The letter adds that masks should be mandated for everyone in schools--not only teachers and adults. Further, classrooms should be reduced in size by 50 per cent to ensure safe physical distance.

"Every day, we continue to put ourselves, our loved ones, and communities at risk," reads the letter. "It is dangerous and unfair to be expected to continue in this way without appropriate measures to ensure our safety."

COVID-19 school notification process

If a student or teacher receives a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, Public Health follows rigorous protocol:

  • Contact tracing is initiated to determine how the individual was infected and who they were in close contact with.
  • We identify and notify close contacts who may be at an increased risk, and advise them to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
  • Only Public Health can determine who is a close contact. Learning groups, friends or other connections may not be determined to be a close contact.
  • Public Health staff works closely with the school and school district throughout the case and contact management process to maintain close communication with the school community.

At any time, if you or your child develop any symptoms of COVID-19, please seek testing and then self-isolate.

If you or your child have been identified as a COVID-19 positive case or close contact, Fraser Health’s Public Health team will contact you directly and provide further instruction.

For information about exposures at schools outside of the Fraser Health region, visit BCCDC's Public Exposures page

--With files from the Canadian Press.