Shortreed Community Elementary. (Langley School District/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Shortreed Community Elementary. (Langley School District/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Shortreed teachers stage sit-in to defy orders deemed ‘not COVID safe’

After power was knocked out in Aldergrove on Wednesday, teachers refused to work from another school

Fifteen teachers at Shortreed Community School in Aldergrove staged a sit-in strike on Wednesday, in protest of an order from the school district after power went out.

A windstorm shut off the lights at six schools in Langley – including Shortreed – prompting the Langley School District to send students home for the day.

The district’s policy is to have teachers re-deploy to another school and work from there, but many felt that directive was unsafe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tanya Kerr, president of the Langley Teacher’s Association, told the Aldergrove Star that teachers felt working from another school would break COVID-19 restrictions and put employees and students more at risk.

“We had a similar situation this fall when the power went out and teachers did not want to go to another school. The district said they would take it into consideration,” Kerr noted.

When the district refused to let Shortreed staff work from home, teachers stayed at the school in protest.

“I haven’t heard they will be disciplined,” Kerr said, noting the next step is to troubleshoot with the Labour Relations Board on the matter. “We are waiting on action from the district right now. The hope, for sure, is to change the policy.”

Cashmere Roder, vice-president of the school’s parent advisory council, said she is surprised that the policy hasn’t changed.

“With all of the different policies and protocols that have changed over the last nine months because of COVID, it’s surprising that this was not one they would look into right away,” Roder said.

Roder said she saw teachers sitting out front of Parkside Elementary in Aldergrove on Wednesday, adding that she figured they must have been directed to work from that school but chose not to enter.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Teachers have bent over backwards to work from home and have proven they are more than capable of doing so. They have a plan, they are ready, so why not let them do that? It’s like the district is treating the teachers like children.”

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“Teachers are exhausted and this was the breaking point,” Kerr said. “They are not defiant. This is their job and they deemed that it was safer to work in a building with no power than to be transferred to a different school.”

Langley School District released a statement on Wednesday, noting that teachers and staff at sites that did not have power resume at the start of the day were redeployed to other District sites.

“Due to health and safety, it is standard District practice for teachers and staff to work at other sites that are operational when a school is closed due to power outages or other unforeseen events. All of our sites have strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place including measures for any staff working temporarily in the building whether they are from another school or the District office,” the statement read.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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AldergroveLangley School DistrictLangley Township