I am a Parent to two children in the Surrey School District. My children are now in grades 1 and 5.
Both of my children have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), both require 1 on 1 support in order to stay safe at school. When schools were closed down last March, my sons' EA's were offered work as childcare to Essential Worker's children before connecting with us. I got to hear through Facebook and our PAC page about all the assignments, Zoom meetings and etc that were offered to each of my children's peers before they thought to connect with us. This persisted until June, when we were invited to attend back in person. The Ministry of Education insists that my children, as vulnerable learners, have always been able to access in-person schooling but I am telling you that was NOT the reality for many of us.
My children cannot follow the COVID-safety protocols, including staying in assigned areas, frequent handwashing, masking for any length of time and social distancing. They need a lot of help and they need it hands on. I was worried about how the year would look and training to familiarize with new EA's, and this was not offered. Normally there is "familiarization hours" for ABA workers, which takes place in our home, but this year we were told because of WorkSafe liability this was not an option.
We are also a medically complex family and our risk tolerance for COVID is very low. One of my children started self-injuring since the pandemic began which is new for him and absolutely terrifying to watch. They have both regressed in their skills since their routine was disrupted and online learning was not an option for us.
I could not send my children into an unsafe situation and the District really pushed me to get my sons in the building at least once before September 30th. I later discovered this was so that they could mark my children as "attending" and collect the additional special education funding grants that disabled children bring (around $20,000 per kid for Autism). There is no accountability that my sons' funding would be used at all on them.
Ultimately, I had to quit my job to be a full time caregiver and home learning teacher to my sons. Our District is now facing a 40 MILLION dollar shortfall. This system is so fundamentally broken.
I am a primary teacher in Surrey, as well as a parent of children, in high school and elementary, also in Surrey.
I contracted covid from my school in June. I was sick at the end of the first 2 weeks. The room I came back to was dirty, from before spring break, and not cleaned until after the second day back. I wonder how much it happened after that. I was sick, but didn’t have to be hospitalized. There were a few days that I thought I might die, that breathing was so hard, and my fever was giving me hallucinations.
I developed long-covid. The basics for me are: fatigue, breathing issues, vertigo, brain fogs, I deal with pain, and neurological issues as well. I have had more tests than I can count, had many appointments with my doctor, as well as a heart specialist, a lung specialist, and two different neurologists, and now an internal specialist at the post covid clinic. I also get physiotherapy for my breathing. This is still ongoing, over 10 months later. I would give everything in me to go back to June and make any excuse to not enter that school, to have energy and health, and be able to do things with my family.
I won’t go into details about how my sickness was dealt with by my work, but I was told it was not a work safe issue, since schools were safe. I felt very dismissed.
I asked for accommodation to work at home or online, and was told no. Then the blended program came in (on-line, with three afternoons in person). I applied for that, because standing and teaching a full day would not be possible for me.
My children were frightened to go into the schools. They worried that if they brought covid home again I might die! I chose to put both of my own kids in blended as well, and planned to allow them to be home as much as they needed. I didn’t expect the administrators to push back when I explained that my children might miss school, however. I was shocked at the push for them to be there all the time. They have done very well academically, despite missing a fair bit of the in person part of their learning. My eldest has had straight A’s all year so far.
My younger child has anxiety. Dealing with this pandemic has been too much for them at times. Their sport has been their happiness; much more than school ever has. Sport was cancelled, but school was not. Home became the only place they feel entirely safe. With nearly 50 exposure notices for our family this year, I don’t blame them. The notices have been an almost daily occurrence since spring break.
With a recent mask mandate in the schools for my children, and neither eating in class because they are partly online, they both feel a little better about being at school. For me, I feel a little better having had my first shot. However, I teach kids in primary, who do not have to wear a mask, and I know teachers who have gotten covid after getting their first shot. I know we are not through this yet.
While teaching, I’ve been asked more than once to cover two blended classes for the in-person part, when we didn’t have enough TOC’s in the school (our groups in the afternoon tend to be small, as many parents don’t send their children). The shortage is constant. Today I counted 15 staff away, and only 9 replacements. When I go through the halls I see the students without masks, or masks under their chins, in halls or in their rooms. I see the kids wandering between their friends’ desks and group tables. I see many students and some adults using face shields instead of masks, saying that it's the same thing! The kids are always all over each other outside, ignoring warnings of supervisors. There are teachers in my school, who have had the vaccine, who have now contracted covid. There are several others isolating at the moment. Most are primary teachers, teaching students who don’t have to wear masks.
I have had so many friends and colleagues who have had covid, many of them are parents of kids in school, or teachers. Some now with long covid like me. Some of them are unable to go back to work at all, after many months. Our family has lost 2 relatives to covid this year.
I want the primary kids to be in masks too. I’d like families to be encouraged to get everyone tested when notifications go home, or testing to be available in schools with higher numbers. I want our hotspot schools, or districts, to do a two or three-week closure while isolating at home and working online. We need to break this never ending cycle of notifications and stress on kids, their parents, and the staff. We need to protect our children, students, families, and ourselves. I know the schools are not safe.
Tell us what’s happening at your school. Share your COVID Personal Impact Stories!
BC COVID Update is collecting personal impact stories from parents, teachers, and students on how COVID is impacting them in schools and why we need safer schools. The goal is to show our provincial decision makers, the media, and the public on what is actually happening on the ground in schools and why change is needed.
Why should I participate?
Each of your stories together will help decision makers and media understand what we’re collectively experiencing in schools due to government inaction on COVID. This will hopefully place public pressure on the government to be more motivated to act on better schools policies. It will also equip teacher and parent advocates with tools to push on government bodies harder.
What should I write about?
Write an emotional personal impact story that will pull at the heartstrings of the public and paint a clear picture of the situation you, your students or educators, are facing right now in the classroom due to COVID. You can include artifacts like images of classrooms with poor ventilation or other images that demonstrate what’s happening. If you have young children, you can encourage them to write directly too!
How will the stories be shared?
The stories will be shared on the BC COVID Update website, and with decision-makers, media, and the general public. We will respect your anonymity if requested. We also encourage you to send your impact statement directly to your local MLA, Premier John Horgan, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, Education Deputy Minister Scott McDonald, and Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Please answer the following questions in your personal impact statement:
1) Who are you, where are you based, and how are you connected to the education system?
My name is ___ and I am a parent of two children in Gr 1 and 2 at ____ school located in _____, BC.
2) What issues are you, your students, educators or school facing right now?
Ex. Lack of proper ventilation, no mask mandate for younger children, exposure notices, etc.
3) How has COVID impacted you, your students, educators or school?
Ex. Student/teacher/family contracted COVID, children developed anxiety, etc.
4) What would you like the decision makers to do?
I demand for:
5) (Optional) Include photos or other artifacts to support your statement.