Face masks required for some N.B. students when they return to school
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick's education minister released more information about the province's back-to-school plan on Thursday, including new updates about the use of face masks.
“What we experienced between March and June was not ideal,” said Dominic Cardy. “It was an emergency response to an emergency situation and we’ve spent the intervening months making sure we are well prepared for dealing with COVID-19 with a much higher level of educational rigor as we move into the fall.”
The province released a detailed, online guide for parents and the public, outlining the requirements that schools and districts must meet while developing their COVID-19 operational plans.
“Throughout the summer, teachers across the province had the opportunity to participate in professional learning opportunities to help them prepare for the school year, working closely with the schools and the school districts to make sure they are ready to implement these health and safety measures,” said Cardy. “We met with 294 principals to give them the tools and knowledge they require to finalize their COVID-19 operational plans in their schools.”
“This September won’t be like last September or any other school year we have known. It will be very different, and that is nerve-wracking for everyone, but I am confident that we can reopen our schools,” added Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health.
FACE MASK USE
Students in grades 6 to 12 will be required to wear face masks on school buses and in common areas, such as washrooms and hallways.
Children from kindergarten to Grade 5 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear a face mask in common areas, such as going to the washroom or walking in the halls.
Teachers and educators from kindergarten to Grade 8 will be able to choose whether they wear a face mask inside their classroom bubble, but it will not be required.
In high schools, where students are not bubbled in classes, teachers will be required to physically distance from students, and wear a mask if they cannot physical distancing.
If a student becomes ill at any point during the day, they will be required to wear a mask until they are picked up.
“The discussion on masks continues to evolve,” said Russell. “If you look at the different jurisdictions across the country, it’s a little bit all over the map and that’s because the information we get from Health Canada continues to evolve. We’re going to make decisions based on what we know today and as things continue to evolve, we’ll make new decisions as needed.”
Students will be required to sit in the same seat on the bus everyday.
Students from kindergarten to Grade 5 will sit one per seat, with a member of their household.
Students in grades 6 to 12 will be allowed to share seats, but will be required to wear a mask while sharing a seat, and while getting on and off the bus.
Clean curtains will be installed on school buses to maintain a barrier with the driver. If physical distancing is not possible, drivers must wear masks.
Buses will be filled from the back to the front, so students do not have to pass each other while getting on and off the bus.
Older students will be allowed to share seats, but will be required to wear a mask while sharing a seat, and while getting on and off the bus.
Hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed at school entrances and every classroom, and students are expected to sanitize their hands when entering the building or any classrooms.
Students will be required to bring a clean water bottle everyday, as schools will be replacing drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations.
Depending on the schools there may be limits to how many people are allowed in a common area, designated doors for entry and exit, and arrows on floors to direct traffic.
VISITS AND LEARNING FROM HOME
Visitors to schools will only be allowed entry if they have an appointment approved by the principal. Parent-teacher communication will be largely technology-based.
Parents will be responsible for screening their child before coming to school daily. Information packages, including screening questionnaires will be sent directly to families through the schools. Information is also available online.
If students are sent home to self-isolate, whether it is a single student, a class or an entire school, full-time learning will continue to be mandatory.
Students from kindergarten to Grade 2 will be provided with paper materials and work packages to complete from home, and will have required daily check-ins with teachers.
Similar packages will be produced for students from grades 3 to 5 and will be supplemented with some technology learning.
Students from grades 6 to 12 will use technology-based learning full time throughout the day.
“This is a plan for managing risks, not eliminating them,” said Russell. “There will be future outbreaks of COVID-19 in our province, and it is possible they could impact one or more of our schools, but we are moving forward because the cost of keeping our schools closed indefinitely must be weighed against the impact a long-term closure would have on the young people of New Brunswick.”
Thursday's news conference marked the first day of regular twice-a-week updates led by Cardy.
“I ask that parents continue to be patient. I know that you have anxieties, but I assure you we are working and doing our absolute best to ensure the safety of our students and all of our staff.”
The updates will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sept. 3.