Agnes Sarophim says she is retiring after almost 30 years as an SEA in Langley schools, rather than return during the coronavirus pandemic. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

COVID risks too high, Langley education assistant says

The 67-year-old says she’ll retire rather than return to the classroom in Walnut Grove

A Langley special education assistant (SEA) says she’s retiring after almost 30 years in Langley School District over fears about returning to class during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’m at Walnut Gove, and last year they had over 2,000 students in that school,” said Agnes Sarophim.

She doesn’t think that there can be enough distancing given student and staff numbers expected to be in the classroom, and fears for students, teachers, and herself and her family.

“I’m 67 years old, I’m high risk,” said Sarophim.

She was not planning to retire this year.

“It’s not a job, it’s a passion for me,” she said.

During the shutdown of schools that lasted from March to June, when instruction was given remotely, Sarophim said she actually felt like she could connect and help students.

At one point, she said she worked with a student for six and a half hours during June, helping her with understanding math concepts.

“She got it, and she got a really good mark at the end of the year,” said Sarophim.

READ MORE: Parents mull options for Langley return to schools

Despite the fact that education will be taking place in class, she’s worried that kind of intensive one-on-one time will actually be hampered by the return to education in person. With a need for physical distancing, she’s not sure how it will work.

The longtime SEA also questioned why, with no more than six people allowed at a restaurant table at once, it’s okay to have students returning to high schools en masse.

Her concern for health and safety isn’t just for herself, but because her daughter recently gave birth to Sarophim’s first grandson. She doesn’t want to take the risk of bringing the virus to her family.

Students are expected to return to staggered start and finishing times for the new school year, with cohorts of up to 120 in Langley high schools.

While masks will be mandatory on buses and in hallways where distancing isn’t possible, physical distancing isn’t required within cohorts, also known as learning groups, in Langley schools.

While there have been many parents urging a return to in-person schooling, there have also been concerns raised about the possibility of COVID outbreaks in schools, especially as numbers of daily cases in the province have risen over the summer.

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