Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)

Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

Matt Westphal says the Surrey Teachers’ Association would like to see school districts be “formally empowered” by the province to implement further COVID-19 safety measures.

Westphal, the STA president, spoke to the Now-Leader after staff staged the third and fourth walk-ins in the district at A.H.P. Matthew and Maple Green elementary schools following more than a dozen COVID-19 variant exposures at Surrey schools since the end of February.

READ ALSO: ‘Solidarity march’ by teachers, staff at Surrey school hit by COVID-19 variant, Feb. 23, 2021

“Currently, there’s just one common set of rules for the whole province, regardless of the actual conditions in any particular area,” he said. “We just don’t think that makes sense when there’s such a disproportionate number of cases in Fraser Health, and especially in Surrey. The districts need to be given those tools, and right now, their understanding is they are not permitted to exceed the provincial guidelines and that just makes no sense to us.”

He added the STA would like to see the province give districts power to “further safety measures over and above what’s currently done across the province, so that they can deal with hot spots within their district.”

Westphal said that could be looking at firmer restrictions on certain schools or areas in the district.

With the influx of variant cases and exposures, Fraser Health has telling entire classes to self-isolate.

READ ALSO: Six classes at four Surrey schools isolating after COVID-19 variants detected, March 3, 2021

“It does seem as though Fraser Health is acting more aggressively when it comes to self-isolating a whole class, versus in the past they might have just self-isolated one or two people and told everyone else to self-monitor.”

But Westphal said he and the STA feel that could go further.

We think those are important measures to take. We think they could broaden them even more … increase their capacity to do rapid testing,” he noted. “Maybe some schools, if we could, it would be nice to be able to close the schools down and have them go remote for last week before spring break. But that’s currently not possible for the district to do under the provincial rules.”

With spring break less than two weeks away, Westphal said it’s difficult to predict whether or not transmission could worsen.

“If people follow what has been strongly recommended and keep mainly to themselves and don’t gather together, don’t travel, then spring break should actually help,” he explained.

“However, if they don’t (follow the rules), then we might be seeing a definite increase during the break and then beyond. That’s a big question mark for us and a big concern.”

As for the response to the walk-ins, Westphal said it has been positive from parents and staff.

“We all have a common interest in making sure that the schools can keep running and that they can be safe for everyone.”

The STA, he said, isn’t telling teachers to plan the walk-ins, but they’re just happening at the grassroots level.

“I wish people would listen to the voice of the people who are actually on the ground, going into those buildings everyday, trying to keep things safe for everyone as much as they can. I wish that voice would be heeded.”

Westphal added there is a walk-in planned at Harold Bishop Elementary on Thursday morning (March 4).



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusEducation

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

Just Posted

Sports broadcaster and 30-year high school football coach Farhan Lalji. (Image via farhanlalji.com)
Farhan Lalji chats about the new B.C. high school sports governance proposal

Lalji, a 30-year high school football coach, thinks student athletes could lose out under new proposal

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Surrey councillor trying to get policing referendum on the table, again

‘I’m sending it back for clarification,’ mayor decides

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
One man dead after shooting in Downtown Vancouver

This is Vancouver’s fifth homicide of the year

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Most Read