Teacher Elisa Infusini and her grade one students wear masks as they attend class at Honore Mercier elementary school, Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Teacher Elisa Infusini and her grade one students wear masks as they attend class at Honore Mercier elementary school, Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Teachers’ union calls for Fraser Health K-3 mask mandate, more vaccines as cases rise in youths

Teachers also want a move to allow hybrid learning

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is calling on B.C. to expand the mask mandate down to kindergarten students in Fraser Health as COVID cases continue to surge in B.C.

Daily cases in the province have sat near or even above 1,000 in recent weeks, and variants of concern have been on the rise. While B.C. does not release numbers for how much COVID is spread at schools, cases among children under the age of 15 have reached their highest rate since the pandemic began. Cases among teens aged 15 to 19 are also on the rise, with cases the week of March 21-27 rising from 86 to 138 per 100,000.

The presidents of local teachers’ unions in Fraser Health are calling for the mask mandate to be extended all the way down to kindergarten students. Currently, the school mask mandate only targets students in Grade 4 and up, while face coverings remain “encouraged” for the bottom four grades.

“Primary teachers’ school days include close contact with their young students who may not understand the reasons behind why they should limit physical contact,” the request reads. “In other community interactions, children as young as two must wear a mask, so this should not be a problem for five-to eight-year-olds to do the same while attending school.”

Some provinces have already made masks mandatory for even the youngest students; in Quebec, all students must wear masks in the province’s hardest hit “red zones.”

While teachers in Surrey, the province’s highest-risk community, have been vaccinated, the overall frontline workers vaccination program remains on pause following the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55. While B.C. officials have said the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine could fill that gap when shipments arrive at the end of the month.

“We hope the rest of our Fraser Health region teachers will be on track to receive full vaccination as soon as possible,” the presidents said.

Another request echoed the words of BCTF president Teri Mooring earlier this week when she called for more clarity on the K-12 pandemic framework. The framework has five stages and all of B.C. has been in stage 2, which involves in-class schooling with learning groups, since the start of the school year. Stage 1 would be a full return to normal while Stage 5 is full scale remote learning.

Fraser Health area presidents asked for a return to Stage 3, which would involve a blend of online and in-person classes.

“Timing is of the essence for this action, as secondary schools will change learning groups in a few weeks and hundreds of thousands of kids will be switching cohorts,” the presidents said. :This poses a substantial increased risk for transmission in schools. The quarter turn around is an opportune moment to implement a phase change to keep our students, their families and staff safe.”

READ MORE: B.C. teachers’ union asks officials for COVID data to prove schools are still safe


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationSchools

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

Just Posted

Fire crews battle a large wildfire north of Highway 1 east of the Yale Road West exit on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Firefighters battle wildfire in Chilliwack near Hwy 1

Helicopter dropping water on large wildfire in Chilliwack near Yale Road West exit, north of highway

web
Fire breaks out inside Mission Walmart

Customers, staff evacuated as firefighters investigate

Japanese Canadian citizens being transferred into waiting trucks outside Hope Station House. NNMCC L2021-2-1-004. Photographs courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre
Fight continues for historic Hope Station House

Ombudsman report and stop work order come alongside district’s move to remove heritage status

Lift equipment is driven away from a fire in an adjacent unit on Industrial Way in Chilliwack on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack firefighters deal with heavy smoke, extreme heat in challenging industrial fire

Crews successful in containing fire to 1 unit in industrial building, adjacent units suffer smoke damage

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Most Read