Downtown Eastside, Strathcona parents ‘uncertain,’ ‘not yet comfortable’ with school restart

Lord Strathcona Elementary School
Lord Strathcona Elementary School - Photo: Vancouver School Board
Laurence Gatinel - CFRO - VancouverBC | 27-08-2020
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By David P. Ball

Province announced details of return to school promising safety. But for Indigenous and low-income parents in Vancouver's DTES, 'We feel a bit like our kids are guinea pigs.'

Parents in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Strathcona and Chinatown neighbourhoods say they remain uncertain and even uncomfortable sending their children back to school on Sept. 10, after the provincial education minister announced he was sticking with his plans to see fully in-class learning.

Minister Rob Fleming said safety of pupils and staff are paramount in the plan to allow 100 per cent enrolment, which he said had the blessings of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and provincial health officer, and that the pandemic worsening could see enrolment reduced in successive stages back to remote learning if deemed necessary.

But some Indigenous parents in the Downtown Eastside — who are within the catchment area of Lord Strathcona Elementary school — say they feel like "guinea pigs," forced to choose between the mental wellbeing of themselves and their kids not to mention the risk of falling behind, or risking them bringing COVID-19 home to their communities and elders.

Additionally, the Lord Strathcona parents advisory council's Indigenous representative said some parents are fearful that they might come under Ministry of Children and Families scrutiny should they feel unsafe sending their children back.

Find out more about Vancouver School District's re-start safety plan on their website, or review the province's COVID-19 education safety guidelines here. The Vancouver District PAC is also conducting a survey of parents, which you can fill out online.

Listen to our full interview with Lord Strathcona Elementary PAC's chair and the Indigenous representative on The Pulse on CFRO.