Allow all BC Teachers to Teach from Home

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These are unusual times for everyone, and this is also true for teachers.

Currently, many districts have allowed their staff to work from home. However, throughout the province of BC, several districts have required teachers to work from their school buildings with other staff as of March 31st, 2020, for the whole week and possibly longer.

This goes against any logic, and directly contradicts the health and safety orders when dealing with this global pandemic. However, the BC Ministry of Education is allowing this as they have exempted teachers from the 50 person maximum gathering law. Many districts have used this autonomy to keep teachers in buildings. 

Teachers should not be required, against their will, to enter a worksite that cannot be guaranteed safe. Especially when teachers can communicate via video chat and other means. Exceptions have been made for the immunocompromised, parents without daycare and pregnant. Many others are not being given the right to simply stay home because they wish to stay safe and follow the provincial health guidelines. 

One of these locations was SD60 until the afternoon of March 30; they were being forced back until one teacher finally asked if their district and administration could guarantee the health and safety of every SD60 staff member during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers now have the option to come in, which is direct proof that other districts can do the same for their teachers and that these decisions are being made by people who do not have the health and safety of their staff in mind. This teacher urges others to ask the same question and fight for better safety regulations. We can ask questions from our administration and demand proper safety, and eventually they will have to adhere. But why are we waiting until it is too late?

The government and the health officer need to step in and take away this autonomy from districts who are abusing it in different ways, such as threat of loss of pay, if teachers choose not to enter the site.

Many BC schools still need stringent safety procedures. Safety precautions other companies have taken include: taking temperatures, monitoring for cold-like symptoms and fining or writing up employees for not adhering to the 2 meter distancing rule. These need to exist for teachers who still need to come into the building for supplies, especially if the custodial staff are to keep up with decontaminating surfaces which may carry the virus.

Teachers need to be role models, but how are they to do so if they are contradicting health and safety orders? The WHOLE community is being placed at risk by allowing these large gatherings of teachers, simply hoping they will abide by social and physical distancing and decontaminate surfaces properly.  

We need to work together as a community and a province to ensure the health and safety of everyone. Make it a province-wide mandate that school staff stay and work from home until it is completely safe to do otherwise. Please do not leave this to be a district by district and principal by principal decision. Those who are willing to provide care and education for essential service workers need to know their building is safe and need to be offered hazard pay for being two degrees away from the virus. Teachers deserve the same health regulations from the Sea to Sky to the Peace River. Every person deserves to work in a safe environment. 

We ask the Minister of Education - Rob Fleming, the Minister of Health - Adrian Dix, and the Health and Safety officer - Dr. Bonnie Henry - Can you guarantee the health and safety of every staff member in every district, who has to enter their worksite without choice or hazard pay, during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Humbly and sincerely,

Katelyn Aulin