A decision to offer in-person parent-teacher conferences at schools has left teachers uneasy as COVID-19 cases soar at schools.
The Vernon Teachers’ Association is disappointed that the school district now requires teachers to offer in-person parent-teacher conferences and is calling on parents to request online meetings to help keep families and teachers safe.
COVID-19 numbers in the Interior Health region are currently the second highest in the province, and the Interior Health School Exposures webpage reflects multiple exposures on multiple days at Vernon and area schools over the last several weeks.
“Teachers are really concerned about the increased numbers of people in our schools who don’t need to be there,” VTA president Cori Huizer said. “They are being put at increased risk by the district’s directive, and schools simply don’t have the resources or plans in place to monitor the influx of visitors that will result from hosting in-person meetings with parents.”
According to an all-employee notice sent by Superintendent Christine Perkins on Oct. 12, “the district believes in-person conferences to be superior to virtual conferences.” But parents do have the option of having either in-person or virtual meetings this year.
“The District agrees with the VTA that parents have a right to choose a format to discuss how their student, parent, teacher, conference will be held. It is about relationship building,” Perkins told the Morning Star. “Together, they might decide to have it in person in the classroom following COVID protocols, outside at a picnic table, over Zoom, or over the phone. We are here to serve children and their families and student/parent/teacher conferences are an important part of a child’s learning.”
However, according to Huizer, the twice-yearly parent conferences were held online in the 2020-2021 school year with great success.
“Vernon teachers reported nearly 100 per cent participation among parents, who appreciated the flexibility to attend from home or work, as well as the increased health and safety protections of virtual meetings,” said Huizer.
“Teachers recognize the importance of maintaining open communication with parents, and support the practice of parent-teacher interviews as part of keeping families apprised of student progress,” Huizer said. “At the same time, they are worried for their own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of unvaccinated children who could face unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
The VTA hopes that most families and caregivers will exercise their right to choose a virtual format for the upcoming parent-teacher conferences scheduled for the end of this month.