Thursday, January 20, 2022

PRDTU continues to focus on priorities it believes are required for Safe School Return

With Prince Rupert's schools back in session for over a week now, it's a case of So Far, So Good, when it comes to how the School District is realizing the current travels of COVID. 

With no schools noted by the District to date, as having to take the additional step of a Functional Closure like that of Hazelton last week.

When it comes to any COVID impact in the schools, unlike 2020 and a COVID report culled through contact tracing; the notice of impacts of the virus won't be identified until there is a large number of students, or staff members noted as not able to come to school for a number of days.

As the students returned to their classes last week, the union representing their teachers issued an information release on January 12th. 

With the Prince Rupert and District Teachers' Union document outlining how it's viewing the return to school, reinforcing some previous calls for additional measures that focused on mask wearing, ventilation and access to booster shots.

To help ensure safety for students and staff alike, the PRDTU remains committed to calling for N95 masks, improved ventilation (including the provision of portable HEPA filters where required), and faster access to boosters for school workers. Safe schools and quality education remain our priorities.

The PRDTU has also acknowledged the potential for staffing shortages during their period, calling on the School District to taken the guidance of those who are closest to the students to determine what level of supports are required during this period of concerns over COVID related measures in the schools.

The PRDTU is aware that local schools may experience staff shortages in the days ahead. If there are not enough teachers (or other staff members) to keep schools safely open, then schools may need to shut down temporarily – until staff are able to return to work. 

Numbers alone can’t determine if a school is staffed safely, as students require more than “eyes-on-students” supervision. Schools provide supports for students with diverse needs, which requires that staff know the students and have relationships already in place for supporting them. 

 The decision of what level, and specific kind, of support students require should be made by those closest to the students. Students with special needs rely on existing relationships to have their needs supported. 

In addition, teachers’ professional autonomy, and other aspects of the Collective Agreement, must continue to be fully respected by SD52. Respecting the Collective Agreement is essential for ensuring that teachers’ voices as professionals continue to help guide SD52’s response to the pandemic and that resources are provided to support quality education.

In their correspondence, the union also highlights what they believe should be part of an overall plan when it comes to keeping the schools open in a safe manner. 

The full review of those recommendations and other themes of their correspondence can be examined here.

The School District has yet to provide a synopsis of how the first week of the return to school looked or if any issues of note were noted during the period. 

The most recent communications coming from the SD were delivered earlier this month as the Return to School program was being launched.

Individual schools continue to communicate with parents, guardians and students through their individual websites and social media feeds.

More notes on Education across the Northwest can be explored here.

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