B.C. teachers' union calls for school closures due to wildfire smoke, COVID-19 - InfoNews

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B.C. teachers' union calls for school closures due to wildfire smoke, COVID-19

September 14, 2020 - 3:59 PM

B.C. teachers want classes to be cancelled due to what they feel are unsafe conditions in schools.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation took to Twitter on Sunday to voice their concerns about poor air quality due to smoke and increased risk of COVID-19 in crowded classrooms.

"Teachers and students should not be in crowded classes with no ventilation or fresh air," they tweeted Sept. 13.

The union called for action and advice from provincial officials, employers and B.C.'s Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the issue in today's COVID-19 update and noted that it's a broad swath of the province that's been affected, and for many people the school is actually a safer environment than many homes.

"It is perfectly safe for people to be in the school, but we don't want the windows open, we want to reduce the amount of smoke that's coming in," she said.

She conceded the recommendation to close windows and keep people indoors is at odds with what's been said about ventilation in schools in a COVID-19 situation.

"We have other things in place for COVID-19, as well," she said. "So we need to make sure that we're adhering to those precautions."

Wildfires burning the northwestern United States have brought smoke to the province over the past several days, and skies aren't forecasted to clear until midweek.

School districts in the province remained open on Monday, despite concerns raised by the Teachers' Federation.

However, schools will be keeping staff and students indoors as much as possible on days when the Air Quality Health Index is a 7 or higher, according to an email to parents from School District 23. 

Further, the email stated that strenuous outdoor activities like gym class will be rescheduled and that while schools will remain open, parents can decide to keep their children home. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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