Open Letter to Bill Ford, Superintendent, School District #20
I will start with one word, “unacceptable.” That is how I, and many others view your plan. The theory of it is sound, based on what we have learned with the various epidemiological crises of our times, beginning with the first SARS outbreak of 2003. There is no argument about the benefits of physical distancing, frequent and thorough hand washing, and the benefits of wearing a mask in confined spaces, and / or when physical distancing is not possible. What your plan does not address is attitudes and practices of people outside of the school.
This summer, many of us were witness to a viral video featuring a local woman having an apoplectic fit over a COVID-19 mitigation policy where some proactive businesses, and societies have implemented a contact tracing program in order to assist BC Public Health in the event a person had contracted COVID-19, and attended the location. This brought to light the extremely selfish and misguided side of many people. Rather than accept facts based in solid science, they instead believe in rumour, and pseudoscience. This woman firmly believed that COVID-19 is some pretext to some new world order, and it is some horrible experiment designed to make us fear one another. This woman, I’m afraid, is not alone.
It is this complacent, conspiracy-driven mentality that your plan fails to address. You state that we must basically sign a statutory declaration each day with respect to the health status of our children, but do not provide a consequence if that signature is provided under false pretense. So this declaration is meaningless. After all, any idiot with a pen can sign a document. This does not inspire trust. Further, the attitudes of the parents immediately translate to the children. So if the parent is resisting our public health protocols, what sort of safeguards will be in place to ensure the children are compliant at all times?
Factor that risk with the reality of your learning groups. Again, does not inspire trust. The cohort plan would be actually effective if we were China, with a “One Family, One Child” policy. I however, have 4 children. Indeed, census data shows that the average household has between 2 and 3 children. I have 2 kids that will be in 2 different primary cohorts, and 2 that will be in different secondary cohorts. Primary cohorts are limited to 60 persons; Secondary, 120. That is 360 people that I will be indirectly exposed to on a daily basis. Now, each of those persons will have their immediate family and their social bubble. With a conservative estimate of 10 in that bubble, that essentially means that I will be exposed, indirectly, to 3,600 people, on a daily basis.
I am the sole providor for my family, and am an essential service worker. CERB is phased out to an EI program, and no longer is there a moratorium on rental evictions. I have been fortunate so far to be able to continue working, and not contracted COVID-19 so far. However, your plan drastically increases my risk of becoming ill, which will immediately translate to me not being able to work. I cannot report to work when showing signs of any illness, and if it is commensurate with COVID-19 symptoms, cannot go back to work until a test has been completed, and the results prove negative. The new EI still does not pay enough to maintain my household, and time lost, could lead to homelessness.
As if that stress wasn’t enough, your failure to implement remote learning options, and taking a hardline, “my way or the highway” stance, compounds that, because if I insist that my children not attend school on the basis it presents an unacceptable health risk, you will then call your friends at MCF to potentially remove my children, destroying my household, and emotionally abusing my children from the process. I am the parent. It is my job to protect them, and those in my household. That protection extends to my ability to provide for that household. In order to do that, I need more flexibility from you in this matter. I do not have the time or resources to home school. I do not have confidence either in returning my children to full-time, in class instruction. Remote learning options would be the best option to have available, in my opinion.
The federal and provincial governments have injected significant amounts of money to accommodate a safe return to education plan, and other jurisdictions seem not to have a problem with implementing in-class, remote and hybrid models, so the question must be asked, why the discrepancy? I am not alone in having grievous concerns with your plan, and all we are asking is for you to provide flexible options to meet all challenges we as parents face, until a viable vaccine is in place.
Your defensive attitude, reports that you are not responding to parents, and your heavy handed approach have eroded what little confidence we have in your ability to act in the interests of the very people who pay your salary. With that in mind, I shall finish with 2 words, “Fix it.”
C. Nickason, Concerned parent