Prince Rupert District Teachers' Union holds road rally to promote safer schools, mask mandate

Joshua Azizi

The Prince Rupert District Teachers' Union held a road rally yesterday that called for the school board to make classrooms safer during the pandemic. 

One of the union's requests is for the board to establish a mandatory mask mandate. Students in BC are required to wear masks in common areas, but they don't have to wear one in the classroom. 

Union President Gabriel Bureau said the union is putting pressure on the school board because they're tired of waiting for the government to take action.

"What we want is to be the same as everywhere else. If you go to Safeway, if you go to the mall, you need to wear a mask. Then you enter the school and then you remove your mask. That is what is unique right now."

Rally participants drove throughout town while honking their horns in support of safer schools. It lasted about 20 minutes and finished outside of the school board's office. 

Tom Kertes is a middle school teacher who said that he wants to see clear policies requiring masks in schools. He was shocked when he heard that schools would not be included in Dr. Bonnie Henry's provincial order requiring masks indoors.

"Truthfully, I felt like crying. When I heard it on the radio I was driving home, and I felt so disrespected as a teacher. My job as a teacher is to make sure that the student in my class are safe. That's my first and primary responsibility."

The teachers' union also called for a maximum of 15 students per classroom. Kertes said that it's currently difficult to maintain physical distancing within a class. 

"When a classroom is designed for students that aren't physically distanced and there's the same number of students, it's not possible to be physically distanced. So most classes you can't have the full number of students in the room without the students being closer than a full metre apart."

Prince Rupert School Board Chair James Horne could not be reached in time for comment on this story.

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