A reported group of 20 Abbotsford secondary principals were in Whistler over the weekend on a work-related retreat despite recommendations from Dr. Bonnie Henry to have a maximum of six people at all gatherings.
The overnight retreat takes place annually.
An Abbotsford School district spokesperson did confirm that 20 secondary administrators from Abbotsford are attending an event in Whistler hosted by the British Columbia Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association.
The BCPVA, though, said its event is a virtual conference on Thursday and Friday and that they have nothing to do with the event occurring in Whistler. The spokesperson then clarified that the Whistler event was being held by the Abbotsford Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, a group not under the control of the Abbotsford school district.
There has been online criticism of the Abbotsford School District demanding teachers do their Pro-D work in person at school, while principals and vice-principals are in Whistler.
Jennifer Brooks of the Abbotsford Teachers’ Union told The News that teachers were directed to be at school on Friday, despite the fact that the online workshops and conferences they were registered for could be done online at home.
Brooks said that several school sites did not have the heat turned on and that many of those working that day experienced frigid temperatures for all or part of the day. The News did also receive messages from teachers and the spouses of teachers who wished to remain anonymous that they were cold and were forced to bundle up in additional layers.
Kayla Stuckart, the ASD communications manager, stated that all thermostats in all district buildings were set to 21 Celsius on Friday.
“Our current daytime occupied setpoints for all district buildings are set to 21 degrees,” she stated in an email. “While it was a professional development day with no students on-site, our Facilities Department was aware that staff would be on-site and ensured that thermostats were maintained at the aforementioned setpoint.”
Brooks said it was disappointing that teachers were forced to work at the school because she felt it would have been prudent to have all buildings cleaned following parent-teacher conferences which had occurred on Oct. 22.
“I had spoken with Mr. [Kevin] Godden [ASD superintendent] the week previous, requesting that teachers be able to do their on-line work from home for many reasons, the most important being to allow for schools to be cleaned thoroughly having just had parent teacher conferences on Thursday (Oct. 22nd) and numerous people through the facilities,” she said in an email. “The ATU believes that School District 34 should do a better job of respecting teachers professionalism and autonomy.”
She added that she spoke to Godden prior to Friday and he insisted that heat would be on in all buildings. She said Godden also stated that teachers could not do their work online due to legal reasons surrounding working at home.
Brooks also said she had no knowledge of the Abbotsford principals’ and vice-principals’ planned retreat to Whistler, which also occurred on Friday. She added that she believes all who attended the retreat have all returned to their schools.
“The Union values professional development for both teachers and administrators but in the context of our current pandemic reality has serious concerns regarding administration gathering in person,” she said.
Stuckart said that everyone who attended the Whistler gathering followed all proper safety protocols.
“Administrators that were gathered together for their off-site professional development session followed all of the health and safety protocols implemented by the venue and the health authority,” she said. “Furthermore, they respected the health and safety measures we have for our school district, including the use of masks and physical distancing from those outside of their school cohort.”
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise and Henry urged a maximum of six people for any social gathering.
“The reality is that, right now, everywhere in B.C., wedding, funerals and other life occasions need to be small — as small as possible. Every gathering needs to be our own household only, and at maximum, our safe six,” Henry said.
Henry also hinted at using tools to place further limitations on social gatherings if the numbers continue to increase.