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On social media, parents and teachers have rallied, with open letters demanding changes to make schools safer upon reopening. Teachers’ unions around the country have put out their own proposals for how school openings should look.
In British Columbia, the province hasn’t decreed that students wear masks, but it has created “student cohorts” of 60 kids for elementary and middle school students and 120 for secondary school, who will learn together. Teachers’ unions in the province said the plan needed more work to keep teachers and students safe.
Physical space is a major hang-up in several provinces, where teachers have long argued their classrooms are already overcrowded.
“With the arrival of COVID-19, what was a serious pedagogical problem has become an urgent public health issue,” said the Alberta Teachers’ Association in a statement.
They don't fit in a classroom now, they surely won't fit with social distancing
Haltiner said this is true in her experience. Her classroom has tables of two; with a full class of students, there’s no way to fit everyone in without sharing tables.
“They don’t fit in a classroom now, they surely won’t fit with social distancing,” she said. “Asking a whole bunch of elementary students to stay still and face forward for six hours is not the reality of what classrooms look like.”
The Alberta union, which represents more than 50,000 teachers in the province, has made several of its own recommendations, including that HVAC systems be upgraded within school.
Manitoba has compensated for the risks of crowded classrooms with remote learning for high school students if they’re in locations where there isn’t enough classroom space to allow for physical distancing.
In Ontario, teacher union bosses gathered to condemn Premier Doug Ford’s government’s plan, which has reduced class sizes in some districts for secondary students, but keeps elementary class sizes the same, calling it a “half-baked scheme.”
With files from The Canadian Press and the Edmonton Journal
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