Teachers and support staff at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill hold flags and wear red during a “walk-in” outside the school on Tuesday. (Submitted photo: Matt Westphal)

Teachers and support staff at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill hold flags and wear red during a “walk-in” outside the school on Tuesday. (Submitted photo: Matt Westphal)

‘Solidarity march’ by teachers, staff at Surrey school hit by COVID-19 variants

‘We need better safety standards in Surrey schools with the variants’: teachers association president

Teachers and support staff at École Woodward Hill Elementary marched in solidarity outside the South Newton school on Tuesday morning (Feb. 23), in a call for better safety standards after cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 showed up there and at other schools in Surrey and Delta over the past week.

“It was a walk-in, not a walk-out,” said Matt Westphal, president of Surrey Teachers Association. “The teachers and the support staff, late yesterday they decided they wanted to do some sort of a demonstration, a solidarity march, have everyone wear red, ‘Red for B.C. Ed,’ to show everyone that we’re in this together and we’re committed to safety and really, to send a message to the Minister of Education and the public health office that we need better safety standards in Surrey schools with the variants.”

On Monday (Feb. 22), Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and deputy health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson rejected BC Teachers Federation calls for school districts to be able to adopt their own safety plans to respond to spikes of exposure.

Whiteside acknowledged that information released Saturday and Sunday of exposures to the B.1.1.7 variant in seven schools in Surrey and Delta was “not the news parents and staff wanted to receive over the weekend.”

But she said if changes need to be made, they will be better indicated by contact tracing and testing processes already in place across the province. “We need to let the processes unfold to see how this happened,” Whiteside said.

Surrey Teachers Association says having cases of variants in schools needs to be “a game-changer,” and greater protections are needed to keep schools operating.

Westphal says he hopes B.C.’s health and education authorities take notice of the “walk-in” march at Woodward Hill.

“The parents seemed very supportive, honking horns and wearing red themselves, and part of this is the frustration resulting from yesterday’s press conference,” said Westphal, who doesn’t rule out similar marches taking place at other local schools.

“We’re not telling our members to do them, and I think it will depend on how the situation unfolds this week and how we go forward three weeks until spring break,” Westphal said. “Everyone in the system is trying to get to that break, spring break, but then there’s the whole worry about, ‘Well, what are people going to do during the break?’ If people follow the rules, that might help, but if they’re socializing and travelling, then that could make things worse.”

On Saturday (Feb. 20), Surrey school district issued notices to three schools where exposures occurred in late January and early February: at A.H.P. Matthew Elementary, Tamanawis Secondary and École Woodward Hill Elementary.

At Ecole Woodward Hill, 6082 142 St., two classes and more than 20 individuals were directed to stay home and self-isolate. “These individuals are also being advised to get tested. They will be able to return to school following a negative test,” reads a statement issued by Superintendent Jordan Tinney.

At Tamanawis, 12600 66 Ave., and A.H.P. Matthew, 13367 97 Ave., the district reached out to three members of each school community, again with instructions to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.

On Sunday, Tinney posted an update, noting additional exposures at Surrey Traditional School, 13875 113 Ave., where two classes were directed to stay home and self-isolate, and James Ardiel Elementary, 13751 112 Ave., where five classes received the same direction.

In addition to three individual exposures noted at Tamanawis on Saturday, Tinney said, one class and seven individuals were also directed to stay home and self-isolate.

The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 may spread more easily, the school district’s statement noted.

“Testing for the variant takes longer than standard COVID-19 testing, which is why we have received the information now.”

In a statement issued Sunday (Feb. 21), BCTF president Teri Mooring said exposures to one of the more infectious variants of COVID-19 in schools in Surrey and Delta is creating concerns among teachers around the province.

“We need the Ministry of Education, the provincial health officer, and health authorities to do more to protect staff, students and the families they all go home to.”

Mooring called for school districts to be given the authority to “go above and beyond the established health and safety guidelines when necessary.”

with file from Alex Browne

Coronavirus

Just Posted

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

Kaushal Parikh raised $2,840 for COVID-19 relief in India during his almost nine-hour run around the new North Delta Secondary School track on Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)
North Delta ultramarathoner raises over $2,800 for COVID relief in India

Kaushal Parikh ran the 90-km virtual Comrades Marathon around the NDSS track in under nine hours

City of Surrey photo
Surrey starts Slow Streets pilot project

Speed limits have been reduced in six Surrey neighbourhood zones for one year to monitor impact on residents

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read