BC advocacy groups, including Safe Schools Coalition BC, demand stronger COVID-19 safety for schools

BC Advocacy Groups, including Safe Schools Coalition BC, Demand Stronger COVID-19 Safety for Schools

Safe Schools Coalition BC is joining up with Protect Our Province BC, BC School Covid Tracker, Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition and other allies to demand stronger COVID-19 safety protocols in BC schools.  We are publishing an open letter to BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and BC Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside.


• Schools are the perfect setting for COVID-19 transmission because they are indoor congregate settings where children spend hours together with other children and staff in spaces that are too often poorly ventilated. 

• BC health authorities have stated that schools merely reflect community transmission, but the truth is that schools are COVID-19 amplifiers, especially when mitigation measures are not in place.  For example, a Boston, Massachusetts study revealed that universal masking policies in schools significantly reduced student and staff illness, resulting in markedly fewer missed days of school.

• Children can also be negatively affected by COVID-19 infections. More BC children have been hospitalized during the Omicron waves of 2022 than the entire previous two years of the pandemic (compare BCCDC situation reports: Week 1 and Week 32, 2022, p.7). Also, Long Covid in children is well-documented. Further, a CDC report, released on Aug. 5, 2022, explained how children who caught COVID-19 are more likely to be diagnosed with serious illnesses within a year of their infection, including cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and renal failure.

• Schools are an essential service that are supposed to be accessible by all children, including those with medical vulnerabilities or those who live with vulnerable family members. That’s for five days per week, ten months of the year. 

• While the BC government claims that $166 million has been spent on upgrading school ventilation in the last three years, there has been zero accounting of where that money has been spent. An informal poll of BC parents and staff showed that 87 per cent had no HEPA purifiers in classrooms, compared to Ontario, which has bought 110,000 HEPA purifiers for classrooms already. 

At time of publishing, greater than 87 per cent of respondents had no in-class supplemental air filtration unit provided or were barred from donating one.

A look south of the border shows us what we can expect to happen. Some schools that have already opened without any mitigation have been forced to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks or have switched to remote learning.

This is extremely disruptive to children’s learning and it is stressful for their parents. 

It does not have to be. Safe Schools Coalition BC and its allies demand that stronger protocols based on SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission be put in place now in the following open letter:

August 29, 2022

Open letter from Protect Our Province BC and allies to Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, demanding stronger COVID-19 safety protocols in BC schools

Dear Minister Adrian Dix and Minister Jennifer Whiteside, 

Roughly half a million students are set to return to British Columbian schools in a matter of weeks, for their third Unsafe September. Each and every child deserves to be in school without getting sick. Each one deserves equitable access to their education. And each one deserves meaningful protection from COVID-19 (and now also Monkeypox).

Schools are indoor congregate settings where children spend hours together with educators and other children. Each of them has their own social connections who are themselves connected to others in the community. Many BC schools have insufficient ventilation and classroom air quality adding up to a perfect setting for COVID-19 transmission via aerosols across both short and longer distances.

We know what to do to prevent harm from happening. The federal government knows this, and is providing BC with $11.9 million dollars as part of the Safe Return to Class Fund “to ensure the air in our classrooms is as clean as possible for students, teachers, and staff.” 

With schools about to reopen, the time for the BC government to act is now.

The signatories of this letter demand: 

·   Universal masking, with high quality masks, such as KN95 or better, to control COVID-19 at the source. High quality masks must be provided for free by the government to ensure equity of access and protection;

·   Ventilation to keep the air flowing in classrooms so it is as clean, fresh and virus-free as possible. Cleaner air also means better cognitive function as well as prevention of other airborne diseases. The recently updated American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Epidemic Taskforce guidance should be followed, including the use of tools to monitor air quality such as CO2 monitors, based on the advice of qualified professionals as per regulatory requirements;

·   HEPA filtration in every classroom as an added layer to catch harmful particles within classroom air, from viral particles to wildfire smoke;

·   Test, Trace, and Isolate policies, that are based on airborne spread and include 'test to exit' strategies for those infected, to reduce the introduction of COVID-19 into schools in the first place;

·   Classroom COVID-19 notifications to allow parents/ guardians to make fully informed risk assessments for their children and families;

·   Equitable remote options for children who are at high risk, or those who live with at-risk family members, to allow them to access education, a human right, without risking their health (which is also a human right);

·   Support for parents/ guardians by addressing their concerns and making it easier for them to get their children vaccinated and boosted. This will lower the risk of transmission, infection and long-term illness.

As an added bonus, putting all of these layers in place to reduce school and community transmission means that parents will miss less work due to infection, won’t have to isolate with sick children at home, and won’t bring COVID-19 into their workplaces, which benefits everyone and the economy.

Also, planning needs to start now to provide adequate resources to support online learning for students who are isolating, and revisit appropriate learning group sizes to allow distancing to reduce the risk of close range aerosol transmission during this COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is long past time for the government of British Columbia and BC Public Health leadership to start following the best available science to protect the residents of BC, especially our youngest and most vulnerable.

Our children should not be repeatedly exposed to and infected with a novel virus. Avoiding COVID-19 infection is the best way to ensure a future full of potential and free from (further) disability for all our children.

The BC government must accept the reality of how COVID-19 spreads through aerosols; the reality that children do get infected and in turn infect their families and communities; the reality that our schools are presently ill-prepared to prevent the spread of this infection; and the reality that COVID-19, a novel virus, and can harm our children. 

Minister Dix, Minister Whiteside, and the entire BC NDP caucus: you have within your power, the ability to protect our children and prevent harm from occurring.

The time to act is now, for the sake of BC’s children, their families, school staff, and all workplaces and communities within the province.


Protect Our Province BC, including:

Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, retired Emergency Physician, 
Protect Our Province BC

Dr. Brenda Hardie, Family Physician,
Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine
Protect Our Province BC 

Dr. Susan Kuo, Family Physician,
Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine
Protect Our Province BC

Dr. Karina Zeidler, Family Physician,
Clinical instructor, UBC Faculty of Medicine, 
Co-founder of Protect Our Province BC,
Trustee Candidate for Vancouver School Board with Vote Socialist municipal party

Safe Schools Coalition BC, including:

Victoria Chung, parent,
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Jennifer Heighton
BSc (Physics), Teacher, Safe Schools Coalition BC,
Co-founder Protect Our Province BC

Tom Jackman, parent and disability rights advocate,
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Nathalie Kos, DMD, parent,
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Annie Ohana, Indigenous Department Head, Surrey School teacher,
Safe Schools Coalition BC

Karen Tsang, Vancouver DPAC,
Safe Schools Coalition BC

BC School Covid Tracker

Kathy Marliss, parent,
BC School Covid Tracker

Andrea Roszmann, parent, 
BC School Covid Tracker

UBC Covid Tracker


Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition, including:

Stephane Bilodeau, Eng., Ph.D., Fellow Engineers Canada,
Coordinator, Indoor Air Quality Task Force, World Health Network,
Lecturer, Bioengineering Department, McGill University, 
Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Alec Farquhar, retired Occupational Health and Safety Regulator,
Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Ziad Fazel, BASc, DipAdmin, P.Eng.,
Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Laurence Svirchev, MA, BS, CIH,
Svirchev OHS Management Systems,
Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Dorothy Wigmore, MS,
Occupational hygienist,
Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition

Other Individual signatories:

Dr. David Berger, Remote Emergency GP, Australia

Astrid Brousselle
Professor and Director, School of Public Administration,
University of Victoria

Tracy Casavant, BASc (Chml), MES

Damien Contandriopoulos,
Professor, School of Nursing,
University of Victoria

Irene Corman, M.A. educator, 
Retired Associate Superintendent of Schools

Mauricio Drelichman, Associate Professor,
University of British Columbia

Rob DuMont, Data Insights Analyst.

Jaclyn Ferreira, Rare Disease and Disability Advocate

Dr. David Fisman, MPH,
Professor of Epidemiology at University of Toronto,
Lead of the Pandemic Readiness Stream at the University of Toronto Institute for Pandemics

Dr. David M. Forrest,
Infectious diseases and critical care medicine,
Nanaimo Regional General Hospital

Colin Furness PhD MPH, Infection Control Epidemiologist

Dr. Malgorzata Gasperowicz,
Developmental Biologist, University of Calgary

Lauren Goldman, RN

Dr. James Heilman, MD, BC Emergency Physician

Amanda Hu, BA, BFA, NCT

Dr. Rob James, PhD (Epidemiology)

José-Luis Jimenez; Distinguished Prof., Dept. of Chemistry & Biochemistry, 
CIRES Fellow, University  of Colorado

Andrew Longhurst, MA, Health Policy Researcher & PhD Candidate,
Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University 

Steve Morgan, PhD.
Professor, School of Population and Public Health,
University of British Columbia

Dr. Tara Moriarty, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, 
Faculty of Dentistry, Matrix Dynamics Group,
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology

M.B. Oliver, CD, P.Eng.

Dr. Sarah (Sally) Otto, FRSC,
Director, Liber Ero Fellowship Program,
University Killam Professor, Department of Zoology,
University of British Columbia

Kimberly A. Prather, Ph.D.
Director, NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment,
Distinguished Professor
Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography,
University of California, San Diego,
La Jolla

Dr. Manya Sadouski, Family Physician

James Andrew Smith, PhD, P.Eng,
Associate Professor, York University

Dr. Amy Tan, MSc CCFP (Palliative Care) FCFP