This week, students returned to SD52 schools. Last week, new safety measures were put in place and teachers were busy preparing our classrooms and schools for the Omicron surge. Planning for safe schools, at every stage of the pandemic, is essential for students, schools, and staff. That’s why the PRDTU continues to call on the school district to develop and communicate effective plans for keeping schools safe.
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.
For schools to remain open for education, they must be safe. Safety must come first.
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.
We call on SD52 to provide schools, staff, and families with clear plans for how schools will remain safe, for students and staff alike, during this phase of the pandemic. These plans should include:
- Behavioural, developmental, and educational plans for students who require individual supports
- Developmentally appropriate (and age appreciate) levels of supports – based on the needs of students (especially for multi-grade groupings)
- Limits on group size and maximum student-to-teacher ratios that ensure adequate and safe support is provided (these limits must not exceed the class size and class composition limits that are already in place)
- Continuity of education plans should be developed and enhanced, ensuring that students will be provided with educational supports to help with learning throughout (and after) this phase of the pandemic and that teachers will be provided the supports needed to help students learn
- Additional materials and supplies for non-educational activities (ensuring that educational programs do not lose materials and supplies) should be provided
- Teacher-led decision making and communication processes should be built into the plans – keeping decisions and resources close to students
- Information should flow from the bottom up and teachers should be provided with written plans that are consistently applied throughout the school district (adapted to the various ages and special needs of students and school communities)
- Specific commitments to respect teachers’ professional autonomy, and other provisions of the Collective Agreement, must be part of any plans – the PRDTU must be meaningfully consulted with throughout all stages of the planning process
The PRDTU continues to call for improved safety measures in SD52 schools. We request that:
- N95 masks be provided
- Ventilation be improved (including the provision of portable HEPA filters where needed)
- Faster access to booster shots for school workers be prioritized
The PRDTU will continue to advocate for safe schools and for quality education for our students. We will continue our calls for needed improvements on safety and the provision of educational supports for students during all phases of the pandemic.