Last November PRDTU members voted in favour of a mask mandate in all SD52 classrooms at a General Meeting attended by nearly 50 teachers. We reaffirmed this at our most recent General Meeting, calling on masks for students in K to Grade 3 classrooms.
Last November’s motion for Safe Schools was followed up by a series of meetings with SD52 management on safety improvements. The PRDTU also held a Road Rally for Safe Schools, which drew media attention to teachers’ calls for improvements to school safety in our community. Our local media campaign included a series of public service advertisements and other outreach (see below for the poster we distributed for this).
The PRDTU was an early leader within the BCTF on calls for universal measures to protect staff and student safety, including by calling for early access to vaccines for teachers if required for our safety at work. We were also an early advocate for masks in schools. Our local’s motion to the BCTF, which passed at the AGM, articulates the BCTF’s current policy on pandemic safety. This policy places member safety as a paramount priority for the BCTF. This policy also bases BCTF policy on precautionary and universal principles.
Our Calls to Action Helped Lead to Mask Mandates for All Schools
At last week’s PRDTU General Meeting we reaffirmed our local union’s position on masks for all students and staff in SD52 schools. As you likely know from widespread media coverage, this part of our campaign for safer schools has met its objective. The provincial government has agreed with the BCTF and PRDTU on making masks a requirement for all ages. This means that masks, with some exceptions, are now mandated for all staff, visitors, and students in schools throughout the province.
The PRDTU’s commitment to your safety is realized in these new measures. While we had hoped for government action sooner, as COVID-19 changes so too must our response to it. At least the government remains committed to following the science on protecting people during this pandemic.
With a safe and effective vaccine available for most adults and youth over 12, and with the fast-spreading Delta variant, protecting younger students by requiring masks in schools puts their safety first. It also helps reduce the spread and protects teachers – and our families at home and beyond.
The PRDTU is committed to protecting your safety at work. We have been a leader on this throughout COVID-19 and will continue to advocate for your safety. As teaching professionals, we know that our students deserve safe schools. We will also continue to advocate for safer schools for all students and staff.
As the population reaches full vaccination, we are all hopeful that our schools will return to the pre-COVID normal when we could see each other’s faces and go to school without wearing a mask. Thankfully, the science behind vaccination has provided us with an effective and safe way out of this pandemic together.
Looking Back: PRDTU Advocacy for Safe Schools
The following motion passed at the September 28, 2021 General Meeting:
Moved that the PRDTU request to the Board of education to extend the mask mandate to K to 3.
The following motion passed at the December 15, 2020 General Meeting of the PRDTU. This motion was moved at the BCTF Annual General Meeting by the PRDTU and passed. It now reflects BCTF policy on COVID-19 and any future public health emergency.
That, in the event of a public health emergency that puts members’ health and safety in jeopardy, such as a pandemic, Federation policy shall be guided by the following strategies and principles:
1) members’ health and safety matters, meaning that members’ health, safety, and lives should be paramount considerations when guiding the Federation’s response to such an emergency, equal to the health, safety, and lives of students, families, other school staff, and Federation staff;
2) protective measures for members shall be demanded as necessary, including the immediate provision of personal protective equipment, early access to vaccines, exposure control or health and safety measures for members, and/or whatever else is needed; and
3) precautionary and universal protections shall be demanded as necessary.
In addition to passing the above policy motion, the PRDTU also held a series of public outreach events to promote safe school policies for SD52 students and staff.
The following motion passed at a General Meeting on November 21, 2020.
That the PRDTU request that the School District immediately adopt the following measures:
- require that staff, students, and the public wear a mask when in schools or classroom spaces when physical distancing is not possible, with exceptions provided for medical reasons, individual student needs, and when eating or drinking on breaks or lunches;
- inform classroom teachers of known increased exposure risks, including if there is known instance of a positive COVID-19 test result in a classroom or cohort;
- reduce density in all classrooms to a maximum of 15 students;
- educate families on the importance of self-isolation and staying at home if you have possible COVID-19 symptoms or waiting for COVID-19 test results;
- transparent monitoring of air filtration and ventilation systems in all schools and classrooms;
- provide staff with barriers and other control measures without further delay, and
- continue with all other existing exposure control measures, including enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and the provision of hand sanitizing stations and handwashing sinks.