(Halifax, NS) School safety protocols across the province need to be evaluated and enhanced immediately to ensure students, teachers, staff and their families are safe from highly infectious COVID-19 variants, says NSTU President Paul Wozney.
Variant strains are feared to impact young people more severely, and as a result the NSTU is requesting the Province increase masking guidelines, ensure proper physical distancing and prioritize vaccines for teachers and school staff. Given the current teacher shortage, having healthy teachers available is crucial regardless of whether classes are held remotely or in-person.
“Schools are not immune from COVID-19, and if we don’t do everything possible to keep the virus out of classrooms it will negatively impact communities,” says Wozney. “This is especially true with the emergence of more contagious variants. With rising case numbers public health and the education entities need to take a more robust approach now.”
Wozney is especially concerned about the eight cases identified in metro area schools over the past 72 hours, seven of which are in Dartmouth and the surrounding communities. While the NSTU acknowledges the immediate steps taken in those schools, he’s asking the province to provide clarity about what will trigger a system wide (or regional) move to virtual learning.
“Teachers, parents, students and families are extremely anxious and worried about the current situation, and they need certainty about what to expect so they can plan accordingly,” says Wozney. “While remote learning is far from ideal, it’s been a key component to successful circuit breaker strategies implemented recently in Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Everyone’s priority has to be keeping families and communities safe.”
He adds: “Teachers and school staff have sacrificed to keep schools safe and open over the past eight months. Teachers know that current safety measures need to be enhanced especially now that we are dealing with new and more dangerous strains because safe schools are essential to safe communities. Students and families have demonstrated a tremendous amount of patience. Let’s not take these efforts for granted. We need to work together to protect each other and halt this outbreak as quickly possible.”