Kamloops teacher raises concerns with new school mask mandate, COVID measures | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops teacher raises concerns with new school mask mandate, COVID measures

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A School District 73 teacher is raising concerns with the current COVID-19 regime in B.C. schools and says while new mask measures are a move in the right direction, they fall well short of what's needed.

"You have kids grabbing onto each other, playing, hugging... shows of affection... and then you have the teachers trying to do one-on-one teaching with them. So (the teacher) wears a mask but not all kids are wearing masks. There's a risk to both parties," Troylama Manson told iNFOnews.ca.

Manson also says the province needs to spell out details of its new mask mandate for Grades four to seven.

"We need guidance on what it means and if kids are choosing not to (wear one) or parents are choosing not to abide by that, what happens? How do we deal with that?"

All kindergarten to Grade 12 school staff and all students in Grades four through 12 in B.C. are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including while at work stations.

Manson, who will be retiring from her kindergarten teaching job this year, says she believes COVID transmission is more extensive in schools than the province knows, and would like the mask mandate, which was introduced this week to apply for all grades, as well as kindergarten.

However, the province disagrees with Manson's take on COVID-19 school measures.

"We know parents and families are worried. It’s important to remember, despite the number of exposures in the community, most COVID cases involving staff or students have not resulted in further transmission within schools which tells us that the COVID-19 safety protocols are working," Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said.

But Manson takes issue with some of the protocols the province uses with testing and contact tracing, including the use of school seating plans.

"(The school seating plan) changes. And when (the students are) in the hallway getting a drink or they're going to the bathroom, they're lining up for that and they're right beside each other, fooling around in the hallways. There's nobody monitoring that."

As well, people who have been exposed should be tested even if they don't have symptoms which isn't currently the practice, Manson says.

And then there are students who throng together before and after classes begin, Manson says, adding she's concerned some of the protocols that should be helping stem transmission in schools including social distancing aren't working.

"Ideally on paper, it looks like, 'yeah, this should work'. But you go into the schools and you see it's not sustainable and we can not possibly do all those things with the staff available."

Then there's the psychological impact of the pandemic, which is taking its toll on some students. 

Manson says the students who have deeper issues are triggered more often.

"The kids who would really be happy-go-lucky kids are a little more anxious. And with anxiousness, you have more issues you're having to deal with between kids... (for example) we have to wash our hands for the fifth time. They don't want to be doing this again. They only have a certain level of understanding and patience."

And you can add Manson to the critics of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, with Manson saying there isn't enough transparency and clear-cut guidance.

"What is (Henry) using to come to a conclusion about something... she's not sharing all of her information about how she's coming up with things," Manson said. "I am sure it's affecting our administrators all the way up to the top... there's been lots of confusion (with measures changing), so it's trying to standardize some of these things across our district... and across the province."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Darren Rathwell or call 250-819-6089 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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