More PPE needed for classrooms, MLA Davies says

Peace River North MLA Dan Davies says the province must give teachers and students with health and safety resources as they head back to the classroom June 1. 

Davies, who is the Opposition education critic, says he has written to Education Minister Rob Fleming calling on government to ensure classrooms have access to handwashing and hand sanitation stations, either directly in the classrooms or through converted drinking fountains. He also wants the ministry to allocate funds so schools can buy PPE for teachers and staff.

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“Despite the release of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for schools, my colleagues and I continue to hear from parents, educators and support staff from across this province who feel that more needs to be done to ensure our schools can conduct proper health and safety practices when students return to classrooms,” Davies said in a statement. 

“Schools are being instructed to implement enhanced safety measures but exactly how the government intends to help provide these supports, such as handwashing stations and PPE, remains uncertain.”

The province says students and schoolchildren will have the option to return to the classroom part-time starting June 1. 

As schools reopen, student numbers will be limited (under 50% for kindergarten to Grade 5 and 20% for Grade 6 and above), and things like lunch breaks/pick-up/drop-off will be staggered, and parents will be required to self-check for flu-like symptoms every morning.

The province says other measures will include school buses with one student per seat, plexiglass separating drivers, encouraged outdoor time and avoidance of clustered activities. There will also be “rigorous” sanitation and cleaning procedures for schools and an increased focus on hand-washing.

Horgan said the gradual reopening starting in June will pave the way for a full reopening in September, but it is important that parents feel comfortable with sending children to school before that happens.

“Orders and guidelines aren’t enough — this government has a responsibility to ensure classrooms are provided with the necessary resources to operate as safely and efficiently as possible," Davies said. "We hope government will listen to the concerns of teachers and families so that our children’s safety and education is not compromised as we continue to adapt to this challenge together.”

School District 60 says public health officials have determined transmission rates of COVID-19 between children and from children to adults is extremely low.

In an update to parents May 22, the district cites the BC Centre for Disease Control: "There is no evidence to support the use of medical grade, cloth, or homemade masks in school settings at this time. Wearing one is a personal choice."

It also says, "There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted via textbooks, paper or other paper-based products. As such, there is no need to limit the distribution of books or paper based educational resources to students because of COVID-19. Libraries can remain open."

Dan Davies Letter to Min. Rob Fleming (Classroom Sinks & PPE) by AlaskaHighwayNews on Scribd

This is a developing story.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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