Mission schools are caught between parents with polar-opposite COVID concerns, frustrated about policies outside of the administration’s control.
One side has parents expressing legitimate safety concerns about the number of exposures occurring; the other extreme has parents claiming administrators should be tried for crimes against humanity.
Superintendent Angus Wilson emphasized the vast majority are sympathetic and understand health mandates come from the province and health authorities.
“On the other hand, we have some very hyper-vigilant parents, and we have people that are hyper-liberty,” Wilson said.
“They may have a misunderstanding about how things work. Some people think that the principal, or the superintendent is in charge of, for example, health decisions.”
Windebank Elementary School had near continuous daily exposures from Sept. 21 to Oct. 8, with only two of those 15 school days not having an exposure, according to Fraser Health’s website.
Wilson announced the school had to close for five school days due to staffing shortages caused by people having to self isolate. He said a total of three infected staff and six infected students were the cause of the exposures.
According to a sign on the school, it is scheduled to open again on Oct. 25.
Megan Sibley had pulled her two kids out of Windebank last week before the closure was announced.
She said there were exposures for five days straight, but she didn’t receive a Fraser Health notice telling her son to self-isolate until Monday evening, Oct. 11.
“What damage has been done with that many staff and students over Thanksgiving weekend?” Sibley said. “These letters are being sent home with huge delays.”
She said she’s not the only Windebank parent who’s pulled their kid from school this month.
Unlike the 2020/2021 school year, Fraser Health is no longer sending out general notification letters for school exposures, Wilson said, so parents won’t be informed unless it involves their child’s classroom.
On the opposite spectrum, there were approximately 10 incidents involving conspiracy-prone parents showing up on school grounds in September, according to Wilson.
“We’ve had to do a couple of Section 177s … Which says that if you show up on property, the police will come and collect you. We’ve had to tell a number of people to please leave,” Wilson said.
Some of the parents tried to confront students wearing masks, while others were angry about clinics set up to offer vaccines to students over 12-years old, Wilson said.
He said these incidents died down after angry parents forced a lockdown of a Salmon Arm school in September.
“I think they maybe got the message that yelling and screaming at children is, maybe, not a good technique,” Wilson said, adding a Section 177 was enforced in Mission that same day.
He said conspiracy and anti-mask-related emails from parents triple the ones concerned about exposures, but that he gets lots on both sides.
“Mostly it’s about how we’re going to get charged under the Nuremberg Codes, which is nonsense,” Wilson said. “Some of them are parents that are generally concerned about mask mandates, which is fine.”
When the mask mandate for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students was imposed by the province on Oct. 1, Wilson sent out a memo to remind parents not to get upset with staff and principals.
With a vaccine mandate being discussed between various B.C. school boards and the Ministry of Education, the school district may once again be stuck between policy and protest.
The province wants to leave the policy up to individual districts, yet the BC Teachers’ Federation prefers a province-wide approach.
Wilson said the shortage is already quite significant in Mission, as teachers on call “evaporated” once COVID hit.
“Our core principals, they’re doing a lot of teaching,” Wilson said, adding there are definitely staff who are not yet vaccinated and could be affected.
He said leaving a mandate up to each district would put the school board in a very difficult position, as no one is a health expert.
B.C. school districts are currently awaiting a mandate guideline from the province. Wilson said it’s a lengthy process, and he wouldn’t expect anything until early 2022.