Since yesterday’s announcement on the details of the return to in-person learning, I have been hearing from unions, parents, teachers, and concerned Islanders.
During the briefing, Islanders were told that if parents were worried about sending their child back to school on Monday, their only option would be to enroll them in homeschooling for the rest of the year. This heavy handed approach only creates more stress for families.
With high case counts and community spread, many parents are asking to be permitted to wait, for example until their child has their second vaccine, before going back into the classroom. Providing no options or accommodations for temporary online learning is unfair to parents, teachers, and students.
Last evening the PEI Teachers’ Federation issued a statement reiterating concerns that it had been sharing with government over its return to in-class instruction plan. It is deeply concerning to learn that education minister Natalie Jameson has not even consulted with the Federation despite being sent teachers’ concerns throughout the recent Omicron wave.
This week we also heard from the union that represents school education support staff expressing concerns over COVID safety in schools, particularly around social distancing and necessary PPE.
To ignore the concerns of parents, teachers, and education staff is irresponsible and disrespectful. The Minister should be treating them as the partners they are, and working to address their concerns. We all want kids safe and in schools, and the experience of teachers and staff is necessary in getting us there. There are things government can do to help address the concerns Islanders are expressing.
- Accommodating parents who need a little more time for their children to be fully vaccinated;
- Using Department staff and substitute teachers to help provide support and resources, both to teachers and directly to parents who need to keep their children home;
- Prioritizing access to the necessary PPE teachers and staff have said they need to do their jobs safely; and
- Improving testing protocols.
Islanders expect their government to do everything it can to help students, teachers, and parents through this difficult time.
Lynne Lund, MLA
Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning