A physical distancing sign is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver on September 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Dr. Henry says schools ‘perfectly safe’; BCTF urges teachers affected by smoke to take sick days

Wildfire smoke from the U.S. has led to very poor air quality for much of B.C.

The B.C Teachers’ Federation is urging its members to take sick days this week if the smoke blanketing much of the province is affecting their health.

In a tweet sent out Sunday (Sept. 13) evening, the union said anyone feeling ill on Monday should book a sick day.

“That includes symptoms brought on by the poor air quality. We need to be especially careful with respiratory symptoms because of COVID19,” the union wrote.

In a tweet earlier that day, the BCTF called the combination of COVID-19 and extremely poor air quality “deeply concerning” and called for the province to take action.

“Teachers and students should not be in crowded classes with no ventilation or fresh air.”

During an unrelated press conference, Premier John Horgan said decisions about whether or not schools should open in adverse conditions are made by individual school districts.

“I believe that just like a snow day those are local decisions,” Horgan said.

“I would leave it to those people who deliver education service, who have employees, teachers, support staff, they’ll make those decisions based on the best interests of their communities.”

Speaking on Monday afternoon, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it was “perfectly safe for people to be in school.”

Teachers and students returned to classrooms last week with physical distancing measures, learning groups and mandatory masks for older students in high traffic areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement, the education ministry said that “school districts work with their local health authorities when air quality is poor in various regions across the province and issue health advice based on local conditions.”

Black Press Media has reached out to the BCTF for further comment.

READ MORE: A day before school starts, B.C. teachers’ union still worried over lack of remote learning

READ MORE: U.S. wildfire smoke blankets B.C., wafts east to Alberta


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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