Bonnie Henry runs into school opening storm

    Vancouver – Dr. Bonnie Henry – until now a messiah leading BC out of the Covid-19 peril – has run into a storm of opposition from worried parents and the BCTF.

    Henry has suggested cohorts for elementary schools and secondary schools and in yesterday’s briefing compared a Covid-19 outbreak to flu, pertussis and meningitis outbreaks.

    However, children are vaccinated against known major infectious diseases while there’s no vaccine or therapeutic for the novel coronavirus.

    Comparing a Covid-19 outbreak with these ran into difficulties on social media.

    “To get the most students back in full-time in-class instruction in September, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer recommended creating cohorts (learning groups) to reduce the number of close, in-person interactions,” the ministry of education stated.

    The government will provide masks for students and teachers but it’ll not be mandatory to wear one.

    Henry has suggested a cohort group of 60 for elementary schools – much larger than her restrictions on gatherings of 50 max she’s been preaching to the public.

    “Cohorts (learning groups) will be no more than 60 people in elementary and middle school and no more than 120 people in secondary school.

    “It will not be necessary for students in a learning group to all be in the same class, but they will be able to interact and connect with each other as a consistent group during breaks, in common areas like the gym, library, or at the playground.”

    “Limiting the number of people each student or staff member comes into contact with will reduce the risk of transmission and will ensure quicker contact tracking.”

    But parents are asking what happens if they have 2 or 3 children in school and each child mingles with large cohort group and they come home.

    Some wonder what’ll happen to immuno-compromised teachers, students or parents.

    Henry suggested an outbreak would result in all in that cohort group to isolate.

    She has said children under ten do not seem to suffer severe disease.

    In BC, more than 200 children have been infected. That’s 6% of all tested infections and three have been hospitalized.

    Also experts say it’s an open question whether children spread Covid-19 as efficiently as adults.

    As numbers rise children get snared in more complex disease scenarios. For example 16 children in LA county suffered from a dangerous post-covid syndrome known as MIS-C.

    BC CDC charts below show infection by age :

    July 30 infections by age
    June 1 infections by age.

    But secondary schools will have double the learning groups – 120.

    BCTF, while acknowledging there’s a need for in-class learning says: “Government plan for reopening schools needs more time and work.”

    In response to the government’s announcement to fully reopen BC schools on September 8, BCTF President Teri Mooring said the plan needs more time and a lot more work if it’s going to be successful and keep everyone safe.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all of us, especially children and youth,” said Mooring.

    “Education is vital and we all agree that students need to return to school, rebuild their social connections, and learn from their teachers in a classroom setting.

    “A lot of excellent work has already gone into the restart planning by the steering committee and working groups, but this announcement misses the mark on several critical components and should go back to those working groups.”

    “This plan is still a work in progress and there is a lot of room for improvement.”

    “The reopening needs to be safe, careful, and get the buy-in of teachers, support staff, parents, and students.

    “If the plan is rushed or too many questions are left unanswered, it won’t be successful.

    “Bringing everyone back all at once, even with some version of a cohort model, on the first day after the Labour Day long weekend, is too much too soon given the many unanswered questions in today’s announcement.”

    “Teachers and support staff need time in September to adjust to the new structures, make sure the proper health and safety protocols work, and prepare curricular resources and lessons that meet the new reality. If school staffs are given time to collaborate, get training, and prepare, everyone will be better off.

    “As a teacher, parent, grandparent, and President of the BCTF, I agree that we need to get back to in-person learning. There were a lot of challenges with emergency remote learning in the spring as well as the partial return in June. But, the imperative to get students back into schools needs to be balanced with health and safety considerations in the context of how schools actually function.

    “Based on what the government released today, their plan isn’t ready yet. It needs more work.”

    More below

    BCTF outlined concerns as follows:

    • Authentic consultation and collaboration at the local level between school districts and local unions.

    • Health and safety measures in place and tested before staff return to the school site and before students return to class.

    • Time in September for teachers to plan, prepare, and undertake the necessary in-service training and health and safety orientations to enable equitable learning conditions and safe workplaces.

    • Smaller classes to ensure all of the children, youth, and adults that share our school spaces can adhere to the physical distancing protocols we have all been asked to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • More clarity around the proposed “cohort model” and how that will keep teachers safe while ensuring students still get their full education.

    BC does not propose mandatory masking and Henry is a weak proponent of masking – often wavering about the need and initially describing masks as “not part of our cukture.”

    On the other hand Ontario has proposed the following:

    Mandatory masks for grades 4+, masks will be encouraged for jk-grade 3.

    $309 million will be spent to hire 500 public health nurses and 900 custodians. As well this cash will buy PPE.

    Elementary school kids will be back full-time.

    High schools will have cohorts but may be split into class of 15 each day or go online in some cases.