We continue to receive letters from around British Columbia from citizens that express their concerns to Safe Schools Coalition BC about the way the BC government is handling the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of those letters.
I am a parent of two elementary school children, and I do not feel confident or comfortable sending them back to school on January 10. I do not feel that the "enhanced safety protocols" are sufficient in order to keep our students and staff safe. I have written letters to premier John Horgan, Dr. Bonnie Henry, minister of health Adrian Dix and minister of education Jennier Whiteside, and I feel helpless in terms of further action to take. At this point, I feel that our only option is to keep our children home until community spread of COVID-19 has been reduced.
In no other situation (other than daycares) would we accept such a high number of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. Why is it acceptable in schools? I understand that parents need to work (myself and my husband included), but we also need to protect the vulnerable children who are not yet fully vaccinated. We also need to recognize that schools are educational institutions, not daycare facilities. Ventilation in schools has not been adequately addressed, high quality masks will not be provided, and classroom density will not change. Also, school staff are not required to be vaccinated. And, I have not yet heard if rapid tests will be provided to families. An adequate and timely contact tracing system has yet to be established, and up to this point, the secrecy and lack of transparency regarding school exposures has been alarming.
In addition, we have very limited specific information regarding case counts and vaccination rates in our towns and cities. We live in a small town on the north Island, and knowing the specific data for our town would help us in making decisions, particularly when it comes to whether or not to send our kids back to school.
What can we do? What action can we take that will make a difference?
It seems that a transition to online learning for two to four weeks would be a wise choice to maintain some consistency and continuity for students and teachers, and to prevent as much illness and exposure as possible. Planning for functional closures and inevitable sickness seems irresponsible. If we reduce transmissions in school, we also help protect our communities and do our part to keep our health care workers and system operable.
Writer, you asked what you can do to further take action. Please continue writing letters, making your voice heard. In addition to writing your to MLA, the premier, and the ministries of health and education, please also write to your local PAC and DPAC, as these parent advisory committees are charged with representing students and families at their school and the district. Some people believe physically mailed, hand written, letters hold more weight in government staff offices than emailed and social media correspondence.
This letter has been reproduced with slight edits for clarity. If you are a concerned parent, teacher, or community member and would like to make your voice heard, we are happy to pass the microphone. For consideration, please email your approximately 500-word opinion to email@example.com. Please include the words Letter to the Editor in the subject line and specify whether you want to share your name and any further identifying details, such as area of residence.