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Safe Schools Coalition BC denies government ask for comms assist

On Wednesday, November 10, Safe Schools Coalition BC was asked by a government staff member with the B.C. Ministry of Citizens' Services to attend a meeting. The stated goal of this meeting was to discuss ways in which the government could "collaborate," to "co-create information that would help parents feel informed in their decision and process," to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.


Our position at Safe Schools Coalition BC (SSCBC) is to focus our advocacy upon a multi-layered approach. We are willing to meet with representatives of the government, prioritizing a focus upon rapid tests, timely and accurate notifications, ventilation improvements, and remote options for families that want it.


While Safe Schools Coalition BC is pro-vaccine, including pediatric vaccines – which were approved for use in the 5-11 age category today – we think it is the responsibility of the government and its public health leaders to properly communicate the risk and danger COVID-19 poses to children. Then, we believe parents will better understand why it is important to vaccinate children as one of the layers of protection. As the risks of COVID-19 to children have been downplayed by the government and public health up to this date, it is their responsibility to come clean about the risks. That is not the responsibility of a parent- and educator-led volunteer group.


For the sake of transparency, we are reproducing the entire email exchange between SSCBC and Michelle Chan, who is a staff member within the B.C. Ministry of Citizens' Services.


Vaccines for Children Co-design Workshop

Hi there,

My name is Michelle and I am a service designer with the Ministry of Citizens' Services with the provincial government. The service and content design team is currently working on content about COVD-19 [SIC] child vaccines. We'd like to collaborate with the Safe Schools Coalition BC to co-create information that would help parents feel informed in their decision and process.

The Safe Schools Coalition BC has been identified as a key organization in supporting parents and families during the pandemic. We’d like to learn from you about how you're supporting people through this time in accessing information and whether you might be interested in participating in our co-design workshop. We're also interested in speaking with families and children about their needs and concerns about the vaccination process.

We recognize that the last year has been challenging for community organizations who are working to keep the community safe. We are hoping that this collaboration will identify a shared mission that can allow us to better support communities in BC.

We'd like to invite you to an informal coffee chat next week to introduce ourselves and see how we might work together. If you think there’s someone else or another department within your organization that might be a better fit to speak with us or to include, please feel free to share this email with them as well.

For people and organizations that participate in this project, we are able to offer $25 gift cards and honorariums as a thank you for their time.

Thank you for your time – all the best,

Michelle Chan (She/her/hers)
Service Design Specialist, Service and Content Design
Government Digital Experience Division (GDX) | Ministry of Citizens’ Services

Email received by SSCBC at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 10.

Upon receiving this message, SSCBC members discussed ways in which to respond. Ultimately, the following reply was sent Friday, November 12.


Re: Vaccines for Children Co-design Workshop

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for the invitation to meet with Safe Schools Coalition BC. However, as an organization that is supporting many families and school communities across BC, we are focused on advocating for health and safety protocols in schools.

We would welcome an opportunity to meet to arrange for these solutions:
1) ample rapid test access and procedures for classes with a confirmed positive case;
2) timely and accurate notifications of COVID-19 exposures in schools, regardless of where the positive case is deemed to have acquired it;
3) government funding for pandemic ventilation solutions in crowded classrooms during winter weather, including active air quality monitoring during the day and air filtration that is rated appropriately for the room size;
4) Improved remote options for families that request it, implemented in a timely manner.

Please let us know when such a meeting is possible. We have a team organized and ready to address these issues.  Please feel free to pass this message up the appropriate chains of command if the above is not within your department’s responsibility.

On the subject of vaccination information for parents, you may want to contact Vancouver DPAC, who is hosting a “Vaccine Information Session” for parents on November 28th, to see how they are approaching this topic.

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Heighton
Kyenta Martins
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Email sent by SSCBC at 10:16 a.m. on Friday November 12.

On Monday, November 15, Chan replied, reiterating her request for a meeting with our group, but only focused on a vaccine-information campaign, not about any of the other school safety measures that we are advocating for.


Re: Vaccines for Children Co-design Workshop

Hi Jennifer, 

Thank you for getting back to us and sharing your concerns. Our team has relayed the coalition's solutions with Student Wellness and Safety under the Ministry of Education. We'd also acknowledge and recognize your concerns, but because of where our team is positioned, our research impact is scoped to web content and digital services.

Thank you for suggesting that we speak with the DPAC- we'd be interested in engaging with them and other families you'd be able to connect us with. Our team is looking to co-design with families to create information for parents and kids in-person or remotely. We’re hoping to host 30-minute / 1.5-hour sessions - for people and organizations that participate in this project, we are able to offer $25 gift cards and honorariums.

We would like to meet (virtually) for a quick coffee chat to see what this could look like. We are available November 16th- 23rd, between 10am-4pm. Please let us know if you or a member of the coalition would be open to discussing how we can engage with each other.

Thank you!

Michelle Chan (She/her/hers)
Service Design Specialist, Service and Content Design
Government Digital Experience Division (GDX) | Ministry of Citizens’ Services

Email received by SSCBC at 5:17 p.m. on Monday, November 15.

Finally, the following day, Tuesday, November 16, the following reply from SSCBC was delivered to Chan.


Re: Vaccines for Children Co-design Workshop

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your reply. We feel that our limited volunteer time is better spent advocating for making schools themselves safer via the measures listed in the previous email to you (rapid tests, accurate and timely notifications, ventilation improvements, and remote options). Therefore we are declining your offer to meet regarding vaccination information sessions for parents.

Please pass the message on to the province that if they had outlined the risks of COVID-19 to children and the risks of highly occupied congregate settings (including schools), from the beginning, they would have more parents who would feel comfortable with vaccination, and therefore would not need a campaign such as the one you are proposing. However, that is a message for public health and government to clarify, not a volunteer parent and educator group.

While Safe Schools Coalition BC welcomes the roll out of vaccinations to 5-11 years old, as one of the layers of protection, we feel it is public health's responsibility to explain it, given their previous messaging. When asked by parents, we certainly will encourage it. If government and public health were to adopt a multi-layered approach such as what we are proposing, then we would feel confident in participating in an information campaign about all of the layers that should be implemented in schools to keep our children safe.

Regards,
Jennifer Heighton
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Email sent by SSCBC at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 16.

This appears to be where our correspondence ends. Should any further communication occur, in the name of continued transparency, we will update this post.