Three employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after the shutdown was announced on Friday.

An elementary school in Armstrong, B.C.’s Interior, will be closed this week because instructors are refusing to work because a large number of pupils are not wearing masks amid a COVID-19 outbreak.

According to North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association president Graham Gomme, the shutdown began on Friday when many teachers at Armstrong Elementary raised concern about a high number of mask exemptions being granted to children, leading in a dangerous work environment.

WorkSafeBC is investigating the situation, according to Gomme.

According to the school’s website, three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the shutdown was announced on Friday.

While the district can no longer supply enough personnel to keep the school open, children will be able to learn remotely during the closure, according to the district.

“I am completely aware of the significant ramifications this decision will have on the school community’s families. I also appreciate that this is causing some of you difficulty and possibly hardship. Our desire and intention is to continue to provide in-person learning opportunities for our children “Donna Kriger, the superintendent of the district, wrote a letter to parents on Monday.

Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, says she wasn’t shocked to learn of the school shutdown last Friday since she knows many teachers are unhappy that the public health directive to wear masks in classrooms isn’t being effectively enforced.

“It [mask wearing] is a problem across the province, with certain areas being more affected than others,” Mooring told Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South on Monday.

“I haven’t spoken to a single teacher in a single district in the province who hasn’t voiced worry about low mask wearing rates, particularly in some classrooms.”

One of the biggest issues raised by instructors, according to Gomme, is that parents are not required to give documentation that their children are unable to wear a mask.

He explained, “They don’t need to go to the doctor, they don’t need to do anything.” “They just claim, ‘My child is exempt,’ and we have no way of refuting that.”

According to Mooring, there has been a lot of conflicting information concerning mask wearing among students’ families.

“Wearing a mask has become into a political statement,” she explained. “There was just not enough education given to families or, honestly, some education personnel around the idea that this is a provincial health order,” she added.

Schools, according to Mooring, should inform parents about the need of wearing masks and getting their children vaccinated.

While mask exemptions must be accommodated, parents and schools must “consider alternative solutions to reinforce and strengthen other safety measures” when pupils are unable to wear a mask in the classroom, according to recommendations provided by the British Columbia Ministry of Education.

The school district has been attempting to fulfil parents’ requests for mask exemptions for their children, according to Kriger, but she hopes parents also make an effort to maintain positive relationships with school personnel.

“I realise how tired parents are. I also realise that the children are exhausted as a result of this. And, without a doubt, our workforce is exhausted “she stated on Daybreak South on Monday.

“I hope we’ve been able to keep our friendships intact, that we’ve been able to come out of this respecting one another, that we can accept that we have different points of view but can still get along.”

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