Shortreed Community Elementary. (Langley School District/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Shortreed Community Elementary. (Langley School District/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Parent Advisory Council raises concerns over Langley school district power outage response

Fifteen teachers at Shortreed Community School in Aldergrove staged a sit-in strike last Wednesday

Shortreed Community Elementary’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is raising concerns over Langley School District’s handling of a power outage on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Fifteen teachers at Shortreed Community School had staged a sit-in strike in protest of an order from the school district after power went out.

A windstorm shut off the lights at six schools in Langley – including Shortreed – prompting the Langley School District to send students home for the day.

The district’s policy is to have teachers re-deploy to another school and work from there, but many felt that directive was unsafe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amy Synesael, president of PAC, addressed a letter to Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, to express concerns after a parent meeting was held.

“On Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, the lower mainland of BC experienced a wind storm which caused widespread power outages. Our school lost power beginning around 1 a.m., and it was not restored until around 4 p.m. As a result, school was closed for the day. Staff at Shortreed were told to re-deploy to another school in our district so that they could continue to work, as it was “not safe” to work in the school building.

We have become aware that this is the policy in several school districts in the province of BC. Given the current global pandemic we are experiencing with regards to COVID-19, several teachers chose not to accept this redirection. They felt it was not safe for them to enter a different school environment, potentially putting themselves, their families, our students, and another entire school community at risk due to breaking their cohorts.

They were not given the option to work from home, but were told they could use a personal day. Instead, our teachers stood up for their beliefs and the safety of our school community, and protested this redirection.

We, as parents, fully support and commend these teachers for their actions. The Provincial Health Office and Dr. Bonnie Henry have been encouraging employers to permit working from home whenever possible, especially throughout our current restrictions. However, our teachers were not given that option.

This redirection of staff to other schools may be standard procedure in school districts; however, COVID-19 is not a standard situation. As parents, we do not want our children potentially exposed to this virus because their teachers were sent to work at another school. Yes, staff could have been segregated in a single classroom; however, they would still need to access the staff washroom, thus mixing cohorts.

In addition, it would be very difficult to socially distance two dozen teachers from various cohorts in a single classroom. Students are not permitted to mingle outside of their cohort – why should teachers be expected to work in an entirely different school community?

We are asking for your consideration in directing school districts to amend this policy during the Covid-19 global pandemic. We believe school districts should allow teachers to work from home remotely in unforeseen situations such as power outages or snow days, where they do not have students to teach, and it is deemed “un-safe” for them to remain in the school building.

In light of how quickly and easily this virus can spread, sometimes even when there are precautions in place, we believe it is un-safe for staff to be sent to other schools to work, when they are fully capable of working remotely from home.

Throughout this pandemic, our teachers at Shortreed, like many others, have continually had to think on their feet, adjust their teaching strategies, and work hard to ensure that our children are not only being educated, but feel safe and secure as well. You should know that the staff at Shortreed continually go above and beyond for our children.

Not only do they provide excellent educational opportunities, but work hard to foster a community of care, kindness, and belonging. We stand behind them 100 per cent.”

READ MORE: Shortreed teachers stage sit-in to defy orders deemed ‘not COVID safe’

Langley School District released a statement on Wednesday, noting that teachers and staff at sites that did not have power resume at the start of the day were redeployed to other District sites.

“Due to health and safety, it is standard District practice for teachers and staff to work at other sites that are operational when a school is closed due to power outages or other unforeseen events. All of our sites have strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place including measures for any staff working temporarily in the building whether they are from another school or the District office,” the statement read.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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