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September 4, 2020

Important back to school updates from the BCTF

Colleagues,

I know many of you are still very concerned about the safety of schools as the new year gets under way. I also know we are all eager to do everything we can to support our students in these very difficult times.

Most importantly, I want you to know that you have an incredibly large team of people behind you, supporting you, and advocating for you and your best interests. At the provincial BCTF office and local offices around the province, hundreds of people are working to ensure teachers are safe and that your rights are protected.

If at any time, you are concerned about the conditions in your classroom, please talk to your site-based health and safety representative, your school union representative or contact your local union office immediately. Any safety concerns about working conditions must be reported to the employer promptly. Your local union can support you in doing that. Every local has site-based and local-wide representatives who can assist you. Local unions also have Local Presidents and other members working hard to troubleshoot and advocate.

We have pushed so hard throughout the summer to get the government to make changes to the flawed plan they rolled out on July 29. We still have a lot of work to do, but we did make some important progress. We convinced the government to give school staff two health and safety orientation days, pressured them into ensuring remote options are made available in every district, and used our collective voices to ensure hiring more teachers was a priority for the use of federal funding.

Even at this late hour, the Federation is still pushing hard in the media and behind the scenes with government officials. The Ministry of Education’s clumsy rollout of the restart plan means there is inequity in working and learning conditions across the province. Some districts have created solid hybrid models that will reduce class sizes for many teachers. Others have created accessible and equitable remote options, while several are still lagging behind. We will not be letting up on our public advocacy to pressure the government and school districts to take every possible action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.

This week, the Federation publicly released my letter to the Minister of Education about how they should spend the $242 million in federal funding. I also met with the Premier to ensure he knew what teachers needed. When the government did announce how that funding was to be used, our priorities of hiring more teachers and ensuring remote options are available everywhere were at the top of the list.

While the list of priorities for that funding can be used to reduce class sizes and school density, the Minister of Education did not provide the directive we were hoping for. He passed the responsibility down to school districts. Our locals will be working hard to ensure funding is used to improve district plans and make sure school boards and management take every step possible to enhance health and safety measures.

Another important component of health and safety is emotional safety. What we have also come to recognize that this pandemic has unearthed the systemic dimensions of racism. Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour have been living with racial injustice for centuries, and this pandemic has exposed that racial bigotry. The BC government has launched a website that helps people learn what a hate crime is, avenues to report hate crimes, and resources to address it. I encourage you to take a look and use the website. Together we can erase hate from our communities, and show support for colleagues and students who experience racist acts in their daily lives.

Again, the most important thing you can do is report any safety concerns to your local union representatives. They need to know about the issues so we can help solve them. Please also remember that what you’re doing is good enough. I know you are all working hard to adapt things like classroom layouts and your pedagogy. Teachers are amazing that way. We care so much about our work and our students. First and foremost, however, you need to take care of yourself. If that means creating a culture of mask wearing in your classroom, do it. If that means staying as physically distant as you can, do it.

The BCTF has your back and we will be communicating with you weekly.

In solidarity,

Teri Mooring
President


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