Teachers seek investment in COVID measures for safe return to personal classes

The New Brunswick Teachers’ Association is urging the government to adopt several new COVID-19 measures in public schools and reinstate more before students return to personal learning, which is currently scheduled for January 31st.

Among the changes it wants to see are KN95 masks provided to all teachers, staff and students, along with safety goggles or face shields for school staff.

The province should also hire all available supply teachers to reduce interruptions for families due to staff shortages due to isolation and illness, publish the latest report on ventilation in schools and “commit to a timely and transparent response,” the association said in a statement Monday. .

The province needs to “prioritize a safe and operationally sound plan” for a return to personal classes, said the professional association, which represents about 6,500 teachers.

“By working together now to put these measures in place, we can all help New Brunswick’s publicly funded public education system resume personal learning safely for all students as soon as possible after the January 31 deadline.”

Ministry of Education officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The association also wants the government to set a clear minimum standard for safe staffing of schools, which, if not achieved, triggers an operational school closure for health and safety reasons.

In addition, it seeks a report on the number of teachers who experience burnout or choose to leave the subject early, as it says has increased, as well as an action plan for how teacher shortages will be remedied in the short and long term.

New Brunswick students are scheduled to continue learning from home until Jan. 31 under Level 3 of the province’s COVID-19 winter plan. (Jane Robertson / CBC)

The current situation where individual teachers conduct both personal and online teaching at the same time causes a disservice to students, is confusing for families and “demoralizing and confusing for teachers,” the association said.

“If it is left without addresses, this will exacerbate the existing shortage of teachers,” it warned.

According to the association, the other “required” new COVID measures include:

  • Make masking mandatory for everyone
  • Make access to boosters easier for teachers and staff
  • Reduce class sizes to make physical distance easier

Old measures that it says helped protect schools in the COVID response during the last school year and should be reintroduced include:

  • A return to the classroom and playground bubbles and smaller class sizes (Fall 2020)
  • Improved cleaning of school buildings (autumn 2020)
  • A return to rotational participation for all schools or classrooms where the number is too large for appropriate distance, “as a last resort”
  • A relocation of teachers in the non-school system to classrooms to help address teacher shortages due to increased sickness absence caused by isolation and COVID outbreaks (autumn 2020)
  • Priority access to vaccinations for all staff and eligible students (spring 2021-now)
  • Easily accessible quick tests for school staff and students (Fall 2021)

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