New West Secondary students stage die-in over ‘lacklustre’ COVID-19 measures


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“So a lot of students aren’t wearing masks,” Grace Hodges, another organizer of the event, said. “That’s causing a lot of anxiety among students.”

Grace Hodges, a grade 11 student at New Westminster Secondary School, speaks on a megaphone at a die-in on Sept. 22, 2020 at New West school board offices, held to protest how schools have been put back in to session during the COVID-19 crisis. For Gord McIntyre story. Credit: Mike Bell/PNG [PNG Merlin Archive]
Grace Hodges, a Grade 11 student at New Westminster Secondary School, speaks on a megaphone at a die-in on Sept. 22, 2020 to protest how schools have been put back in to session during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo by Mike Bell /PNG

Students at the school, among the biggest in the province, received emails on Monday warning them one student had tested positive for COVID-19. Provincewide there have been 31 exposure notices for B.C. schools, 21 of them in the Fraser Health Region with 15 of those in Surrey.

The New West students also said they are concerned that students in low-income families who study online and don’t access to high-speed internet are being punished academically.

They also are asking that TransLink increase bus service because buses are so packed.

Hodges expressed frustration at what she said is a lack of communication between students and the school administration and district.

“There’s been almost radio silence on their end for students who have basic concerns, there’s been a lot of miscommunication that’s caused a lot of stress that has not yet been resolved.

“We’ve found that a recurring theme, so now we’re taking more drastic measures.”

Karim Hachlaf, the superintendent of School District No. 40, pointed out he held a town hall with several hundred students a few weeks ago, in which he answered questions.

Following that, he held another virtual meeting for individual students who wanted to follow up, including two of the organizers of Tuesday’s event, he said.

“I’m always happy to see students who want to be engaged, whether it’s a surprise or not,” Hachlaf said of the protest held outside the district office.

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