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Two-day ‘functional closure’ announced for North Okanagan school after teachers refuse work

Closure planned for Armstrong Elementary School on Jan. 14 and 17
School District 83 announced on Jan 13 that, due to a staffing shortage, a two-day functional closure of Armstrong Elementary would take place Jan. 14 and 17. (File photo )

A North Okanagan elementary school will be closed for at least two days due to a staffing shortage.

School District 83 announced Thursday, Jan. 13, that a “functional closure” of Armstrong Elementary School is planned for Friday, Jan. 14 and Monday, Jan. 17. In a letter to parents, superintendent Donna Kriger explains the closure is due to a “shortage of staff and the district’s inability to cover staff shortages to provide the required level of instruction, safety and supervision of our students.”

The day prior, North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association president Graham Gomme informed the Observer via email that four teachers at Armstrong Elementary had signed a refusal of unsafe work claim through WorkSafeBC. Gomme explained this was in response to the high number of students with exemptions to the Provincial Health Order requirement to wear a mask in school. He said in one teacher’s class, seven out of 20 students haven’t been wearing masks.

“Four teachers… have signed it and all are staying home presently because, in their opinion, it is unsafe to work with one-third of their students unmasked in their classes,” Gomme explained.

Kriger said remote learning opportunities will be made available to families, and information will be shared by the school principal or classroom teacher(s) by noon on Jan. 14.

Read more: High number of mask exemptions prompts teachers at North Okanagan elementary to refuse work

Read more: B.C. parents, teachers, unions call on school districts to announce mask mandates

“I recognize this is a stressful time for students, families and staff,” said Kriger. “Please know that all possible alternatives were considered prior to making this decision. I have every confidence that the staff at Armstrong Elementary will provide a positive learning environment for your child(ren) through this remote setting.”

Kriger said the school district will continue to monitor the situation through the weekend, and updates regarding a return to school, or a possible extension of the functional closure, will be determined according to the school district’s ability to staff the school appropriately.

“I am grateful for your patience and understanding as we navigate these challenging times together,” said Kriger.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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