B.C. government faces backlash from teachers for back-to-school ad
VICTORIA -- The provincial government is facing criticism from teachers after releasing a back-to-school ad featuring provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
In the commercial, Henry lays out guidelines on back-to-school safety. But, many B.C. teachers say that the classroom portrayed in the ad is misleading and is nothing like what students are going to see when classes return in just over a week.
“It’s a fantasy classroom, it’s like a TV classroom,” said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association (GVTA). “It’s not what real classrooms look like.”
In the ad, Henry states, “We’re going to wash our hands a lot,” while showing a student washing his hands in a classroom sink.
The GVTA says that’s not the reality for most schools, as the majority of classrooms do not have sinks.
“Hand sanitizer, they’ll be providing hand sanitizer,” said Waldron
The classroom portrayed in the ad has also raised criticism. The class size shown in the video is six children sitting in their own separate desks with at least six feet of space between them.
“That’s not the case,” said Waldron. “Students will be returning 100 per cent so that means that classes can have up to 30 students in the class, depending on the grade level.”
CTV News went to the playground at Beacon Hill Park and talked to parents. They seemed to agree with teachers’ concerns.
Sati Moosmann is a father of two and his nine-year-old will be attending elementary school on Sept. 10.
“If the commercial is showing something else then they have to be defensive about it because people will inevitably ask why the class sizes are bigger and why not every room is going to have these hand washing stations,” he said.
Alexis Guenther is a mother of a seven and nine-year-old. Both will be attending elementary school this year.
“I think teachers know what they need to be able to teach and what’s realistic for them,” said Guenther. “I would hope that they are trying to make it a safe environment for my kids.”
On Monday, Henry addressed the controversy.
“I think we need to realize that that was not a commercial about what a classroom was going to look like,” she said at a daily COVID-19 briefing.
“What that was was me as the public health officer talking with children and their parents about the things that they can expect in the new school year,” she said.
The province is set to receive up to $242 million dollars in federal funding to safely reopen schools. The GVTA believes that funding should be used to reduce class sizes and to ensure a safe return to class.
“I think one of the things that could be done is making sure that there is additional staffing to provide an online option at all schools,” said Waldron.
The GVTA also hopes the province makes masks mandatory before the start of the new school year.