Okanagan teachers burnt out before Christmas, still nervous for what's to come | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan teachers burnt out before Christmas, still nervous for what's to come

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
January 16, 2021 - 2:55 PM

Schools in the Central Okanagan were challenged by COVID-19 as 2020 came to a close, and it took a toll on teachers.

“It was getting really touch and go before Christmas when we had senior administration filling in for absences, teachers were pulled from prep time, and librarians were put into classrooms... it was down to the wire,” Susan Bauhart of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association said.

“Teachers were so done.”

From the start of the school year to the week before school let out for winter break, 30 public schools between Lake Country and Peachland had experienced a COVID-19 exposure, school superintendent Kevin Kardaal said.

It was a number that far exceeded any other school district within the Interior Health region, reflecting the fact that the area had more cases overall.

Since then, the Central Okanagan has seen its numbers slowly fall, while other areas like Vernon, and the South Okanagan have seen case numbers rise. In turn, there have been more school exposures in those areas, as well.

“The two weeks gave everyone a breather, but now we’re back and many, many of the teachers are nervous,” Bauhart said.

“We’ve already had six schools where exposures have happened, and four of them are high schools.”

When the information of an exposure comes in, Bauhart said that teachers, like the rest of those reading the alerts, don’t know if it’s a colleague, someone from the admin team, students or custodians.

Insight is, however, doled out periodically by the Ministry of Health and at the end of December, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 0.7% of students in B.C. have been diagnosed.

Of 526 COVID-19 school cases recorded between Nov. 1 and Dec. 18 across B.C., three-quarters were among students, while the rest were in staff. Dr. Henry said only 10% of the exposure events led to transmission within the school environment and most transmission events involve staff members to each other.

Since then, however, there’s been the appearance of two COVID-19 variants that are said to be more contagious and that is doing nothing to calm the nerves of teachers who want to see further safety enhancements in their classrooms.

“Nobody wants the school closed but it’s the same you hear from the BCTF,” she said.

The BCTF is calling on provincial authorities to reduce density in schools, improve ventilation, make masks mandatory in all indoor spaces and ensure educators and school staff “are appropriately prioritized” for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Our district is working on a safety plan that came out in September, it hasn’t changed since,” she said. “There’s a lot of angst about that. The public health officer and BCCDC have set the rules and the district’s in compliance, but really minimally. There’s no going above and beyond making it safer.”

 The number of people who have had COVID-19 in B.C. is now 60,117. The number of those vaccinated for the virus is now 75,914, according to a joint statement issued, Jan. 15, by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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