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Vancouver Island teachers feeling the stress of COVID-19

It’s been a long year for teachers across the province, and on Vancouver Island.

As more cases of COVID-19 are being reported in schools and B.C moves into its ‘third wave’ of the pandemic, many teachers are reporting feeling the stress.

Currently there are 19 reported exposures or clusters at schools on Vancouver Island with 12 of them being in Victoria, and others in Nanaimo, Sooke, Duncan and Parksville.

Our newsroom had the chance to speak with some of the local reps from these school districts.

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Denise Wood is the President for the Nanaimo Teachers Association. She says teachers are frustrated with the province and don’t feel like enough is being done to keep staff and students safe. 

“We feel as though any changes that happen are slow to happen, they are reactive rather than proactive, and that is after a lot of advocating from teachers and parents before those changes are made. They are concerned because it’s their responsibility to keep their students safe and they are concerned that the measures that are in place are just not enough to do that.”

She adds that one of the most basic levels of protection required by the province is physical distancing, which is something that just isn’t possible in schools right now.

“The biggest concern is when public health talks about the layers of protection, one of the layers of protection is physical distancing and physical distancing is impossible in schools. There is not enough room when you have 30 students, a teacher and maybe an educational assistant in a classroom to be two metres apart from everybody.”

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“Masks are not meant to replace physical distancing, they are just meant to add further protection.”

The teachers representative for the Comox Valley, Sherry Dittrick shared that viewpoint but also says while it’s frustrating for teachers on the island, it could be a lot worse.

“It is a low amount of stress that everybody is feeling because we know, because we’ve seen it worldwide, things can change rather quickly. That anxiety is there but I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been very fortunate that all the protocols that have been put in place have worked and our community transmission has been low. The worry is that it can change very quickly.”

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