January 4, 2022

 

NSPFPE Concerned About Unsafe Re-Opening of Schools

Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE), the volunteer run group dedicated to a strong and safe public education system, is gravely concerned about the government’s current approach to schools and Omicron.

 

At a time when our government cannot host press conferences in person and when people are being told to work from home if possible, to keep gathering limits small, and “go slow”, and when case numbers are breaking records daily, we are planning to send 125,000 students and thousands of teachers and staff back to school in person. How is having 15 per cent of our population gathering indoors every day not going to magnify our spread?

 

“We hear a lot about the layered approach that will make schools safe, but the layers are never specified,” notes Stacey Rudderham of NSPFPE. “Under 12s have not had time to be fully vaccinated, PCR testing is not being made available to teachers or students, social distancing is not possible in classrooms regardless of furniture, ventilation is non-existent in most schools, contact tracing no longer exists, and school case notices will no longer be issued. So, what are these mystery layers?”

 

Before the Christmas break the government acknowledged that schools had to close early due to the quantity of staff sick or isolating and shortage of substitutes. Our case numbers are now significantly higher (178 when the decision was made to school schools,1 over 1,000 per day now). Multiple schools had cases every day leading up to the closure – with each case meaning students and teachers in isolation. And families scrambling. We question how opening schools is not going to just quickly repeat this same “operational issue”?

 

Ontario most recently decided it was not safe to return to in-person learning – and while their numbers are high their per capita daily case counts are lower than Nova Scotia’s. Quebec and the other Atlantic Provinces decided the same. There is nothing to say this virus will behave differently in Nova Scotia. Dr. Strang just acknowledged there is a 19-year-old now in hospital with Covid… that is one year older than our grade 12 students. We have always heard that we keep kids safe in schools by managing community spread. We have rampant community spread, and now the goal post is being moved?

 

Parents have been advised to notify principals if their child tests positive – even though policies are quite clear that principals cannot share that information unless advised to by Public Health.2 And Public Health has said they will not be doing in-school notifications.Parents providing information is entirely useless if it is not shared to help protect others.

 

So how will spread be managed in schools? Are we just throwing our hands up and giving up? Deciding that Covid is so rampant we cannot even try to protect our young and vulnerable? We have an obligation to create a safe school environment for our children. And the Department of Education has an obligation to provide a safe workplace for teachers and school staff.

 

The Premier said during Monday’s press conference that “if you’re in a room with a lot of people, expect that someone has Covid.” So elementary students who are not fully vaccinated, and teachers who have not yet been able to get their 3rd shot, should just be prepared to get Covid? To miss work and school because they are being told the only way to be in school, or do their jobs, is to take on this risk? Hospitalizations from Omicron are rising dramatically in Canada3 and yet in Nova Scotia we are being told not to worry (but also to take it seriously).

 

Schools are a place where huge numbers of people gather indoors, daily, including eating in classrooms (with masks off). They have an environment that is conducive to spread – and yet we hear about how the government’s goal is to slow spread. We want small gatherings, and for people to go slow. But we also want hundreds of children and teenagers gathering together in large groups all day long. The two messages are quite contradictory.

 

We hear that Omicron is “milder”. But hospitalization of children in the US is breaking records right now.4 And data has shown that children are both at risk for long covid and post-covid MIS-C. Mild symptoms is not the same as a positive outcome with no harm done.

 

Our children do not deserve gambles. We agree that the best place for children is in school WHEN schools are safe. But the risk to their health, anxiety about Omicron, missing school to self-isolate, the potential to share the virus with family members who might be vulnerable, and not being able to enjoy many of the fun aspects of school are also factors for children and their loved ones. Schools must BE safe to feel safe. Our children deserve to feel we are doing everything we can to protect them.

 

1.    https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20211215003

2.    https://www.hrce.ca/sites/default/files/hrsb/b.002-communicable-diseases.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2Nsbsmo1hm2iVawp_XMI_tZpaQSEyIdwW7TG_qvZ81ZIqBqqaRCCEW-tI

3.    https://covid19tracker.ca/

2 thoughts on “January 4, 2022

  1. Hope the government can be educated enough to take the required actions to protect our children and go online for schools. It is about time the government acted in The best interests of their constituents.

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  2. I am a CCA and I feel sending my kids back to school is a risk to their classmates and leaves my work place in jeopardy . Even if we are just isolating due to exposure I have three kids , I anticipate this will be a lot with the current case count and cold and flu season. My work cannot afford me to be off isolating every week. Remember we refused the workers that refused the vaccine…. We are tired and done with this.
    Keep our kids learning online to keep people who are needed at work, at work

    Like

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