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Canada Post suspends submission due to smoke; the teachers’ union calls for the closure of schools

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KATIE DeROSA

and CINDY E. HARNETT

Smoke coming from fires in Washington, Oregon and California continued to cover the province on Monday, canceling causing the Canada Post to suspend distribution across Vancouver Island and parts of BC. 10, which is considered high risk, especially for children, the elderly and those with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. An air quality index of 10 is forecast on Tuesday.

Environment The Canada Smoky Sky Bulletin, released Monday afternoon, predicted heavy fire smoke in much of the south before Christ and the entire island of Vancouver for the next 24 to 72 hours.

The Canada Post reported Monday afternoon that it was suspending distribution due to poor air quality in central and southern BC

The Postal Service said the delivery will be suspended in most parts of Vancouver Island including Greater Victoria, Duncan, Campbell River, Courtenay, Nanaimo and Port Alberni. Delivery will resume once it is considered safe to do so, the corporation said.

While smoky skies and poor air quality are expected to continue on Tuesday, the Victoria Teachers Association and the BC Teachers Federation say keeping students in classrooms with windows and doors closed could increase the risk of COVID-19.

Schools in the Saanich and Greater Victoria school districts remained open Monday, restricting outdoor activities and keeping doors and windows closed.

There really was no question we were going to open today, Saanich’s supervisor Dave Eberwein said on Monday. He said all schools have updated heating and ventilation systems with new filters that capture particulate matter, which means the air inside the schools is clean and well-circulated.

So with other COVID-19 protocols such as hand washing, wearing masks in high traffic areas, physical distance when possible, there is no increased risk for students to be in school today.

Victoria Teachers Association Grand President Winona Waldron said keeping students indoors with their windows closed is in direct conflict with the COVID-19 exposure control plan and the BC Center for Student Disease Control public health guidelines. The plan instructs schools to increase school ventilation by moving activities outside when possible and opening windows to maximize airflow. The association said schools should be closed until air quality returns to safe levels.

We do not have any reduced classroom density, so we now have 30 plus students growing up in a room with no windows open, Waldron said. I do not easily call on the school district to close schools. But I’m scared when air quality says it ‘s too dangerous, 10+, and at the same time, you’re being told you should have your windows open because the risk of COVID is also dangerous.

Waldron said she has heard from teachers who asked about their right to refuse unsafe work as directed by WorkSafeBC.

That language for [WorkSafeBC] it was not written with the thought that we would be in the same climate emergency and in a pandemic at the same time in the first week of school, Waldron said.

The BC Teachers Federation, which represents 41,000 public school teachers in BC, had advised teachers to take a sick day Monday if they felt sick, especially from symptoms brought on by poor air quality. Eberwein said the Saanich school district did not see any common absences, but rather a lot of excitement for the first full day of school.

Asked to weigh in Monday, Prime Minister John Horgan said decisions that teachers or students stay at home, in this case for poor air quality, should be made by local authorities.

I believe that, just like a snowy day, they are local decisions, he said.

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