Teachers and support staff at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill hold flags and wear red during a “walk-in” outside the school on Tuesday. (Submitted photo: Matt Westphal)

Teachers and support staff at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill hold flags and wear red during a “walk-in” outside the school on Tuesday. (Submitted photo: Matt Westphal)

‘Solidarity march’ by teachers, staff at Surrey school hit by COVID-19 variants

‘We need better safety standards in Surrey schools with the variants’: teachers association president

Teachers and support staff at École Woodward Hill Elementary marched in solidarity outside the South Newton school on Tuesday morning (Feb. 23), in a call for better safety standards after cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 showed up there and at other schools in Surrey and Delta over the past week.

“It was a walk-in, not a walk-out,” said Matt Westphal, president of Surrey Teachers Association. “The teachers and the support staff, late yesterday they decided they wanted to do some sort of a demonstration, a solidarity march, have everyone wear red, ‘Red for B.C. Ed,’ to show everyone that we’re in this together and we’re committed to safety and really, to send a message to the Minister of Education and the public health office that we need better safety standards in Surrey schools with the variants.”

On Monday (Feb. 22), Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and deputy health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson rejected BC Teachers Federation calls for school districts to be able to adopt their own safety plans to respond to spikes of exposure.

Whiteside acknowledged that information released Saturday and Sunday of exposures to the B.1.1.7 variant in seven schools in Surrey and Delta was “not the news parents and staff wanted to receive over the weekend.”

But she said if changes need to be made, they will be better indicated by contact tracing and testing processes already in place across the province. “We need to let the processes unfold to see how this happened,” Whiteside said.

Surrey Teachers Association says having cases of variants in schools needs to be “a game-changer,” and greater protections are needed to keep schools operating.

Westphal says he hopes B.C.’s health and education authorities take notice of the “walk-in” march at Woodward Hill.

“The parents seemed very supportive, honking horns and wearing red themselves, and part of this is the frustration resulting from yesterday’s press conference,” said Westphal, who doesn’t rule out similar marches taking place at other local schools.

“We’re not telling our members to do them, and I think it will depend on how the situation unfolds this week and how we go forward three weeks until spring break,” Westphal said. “Everyone in the system is trying to get to that break, spring break, but then there’s the whole worry about, ‘Well, what are people going to do during the break?’ If people follow the rules, that might help, but if they’re socializing and travelling, then that could make things worse.”

On Saturday (Feb. 20), Surrey school district issued notices to three schools where exposures occurred in late January and early February: at A.H.P. Matthew Elementary, Tamanawis Secondary and École Woodward Hill Elementary.

At Ecole Woodward Hill, 6082 142 St., two classes and more than 20 individuals were directed to stay home and self-isolate. “These individuals are also being advised to get tested. They will be able to return to school following a negative test,” reads a statement issued by Superintendent Jordan Tinney.

At Tamanawis, 12600 66 Ave., and A.H.P. Matthew, 13367 97 Ave., the district reached out to three members of each school community, again with instructions to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.

On Sunday, Tinney posted an update, noting additional exposures at Surrey Traditional School, 13875 113 Ave., where two classes were directed to stay home and self-isolate, and James Ardiel Elementary, 13751 112 Ave., where five classes received the same direction.

In addition to three individual exposures noted at Tamanawis on Saturday, Tinney said, one class and seven individuals were also directed to stay home and self-isolate.

The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 may spread more easily, the school district’s statement noted.

“Testing for the variant takes longer than standard COVID-19 testing, which is why we have received the information now.”

In a statement issued Sunday (Feb. 21), BCTF president Teri Mooring said exposures to one of the more infectious variants of COVID-19 in schools in Surrey and Delta is creating concerns among teachers around the province.

“We need the Ministry of Education, the provincial health officer, and health authorities to do more to protect staff, students and the families they all go home to.”

Mooring called for school districts to be given the authority to “go above and beyond the established health and safety guidelines when necessary.”

with file from Alex Browne

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students with Seaquam Secondary’s Delta Youth Advisory Council are collecting non-perishable food donations Feb. 1 to March 5 to help feed local families in need over spring break. (Delta School District/submitted photo)
Seaquam Secondary food drive to help feed 15 North Delta families

Donations can be dropped week days between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. until Monday, March 8

A semi-truck hauling lumber through Tilbury did not have its load adequately secured, which Delta police believe resulted in the cargo almost falling off the trailer. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police find issues with nearly half of trucks inspected in January

Load safety, brakes, driver records the focus of DPD’s dedicated Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit

Photo posted to facebook.com/HoratioAlgerCA.
Eight Surrey students among 170 Horatio Alger scholarship winners in Canada

‘Need-based scholarships’ given to high school students

A memorial to Hudson Brooks outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment. (File photo)
Officer who fatally shot Hudson Brooks recounts ‘absolutely terrifying’ incident

Const. Elizabeth Cucheran testified at coroner’s inquest Tuesday morning

File photo
Surrey council members give themselves a raise in secret meeting

A redacted report was subsequently posted to the city’s website

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read