An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
HERE’S A HUMBLE SUGGESTION for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 among school kids: make them wear masks and keep their distance outside as well as inside.
The B.C. Teachers Federation has been banging the drum for stricter protocols in schools.
Students are required to wear masks in areas where it’s hard to physically distance — such as hallways and on buses. And they’re told to physically distance from those outside their learning groups. Plus, of course, there are sanitization procedures within the schools.
These measures are working to a point but, obviously, not completely. Cases of COVID-19 have been showing up at many schools around the province, including one in Kelowna and a recent one at NorKam senior secondary.
What’s concerning the BCTF is that the students don’t have to wear masks in the classroom if kids sit far enough apart. The teachers’ union wants masks to be mandatory in all places within schools, pointing out that Dr. Bonnie Henry has stated an “expectation” that everyone wear masks in public places.
The Labour Relations Board has agreed to assign “trouble shooters” to mediate conflicts or health and safety issues but some teachers think that’s a toothless proviso.
But even if teachers got their way and masks were mandatory in all situations inside schools, there’s no control over what happens outside. The first time I saw 50 or more students milling about in close quarters, most without masks, after school hours, I couldn’t believe it would be allowed to continue.
Yet that scene is repeated day after day. Students and staff can be as careful as they want during school hours, but when the kids are waiting for their rides or just enjoying the end of the school day, any benefit from inside-school measures goes out the window.
Enforceable protocols are badly needed for what goes on between the time school is out and when the students disperse.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.