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N.B. back-to-school plan requires vaccination for school staff or regular testing


Although New Brunswick is no longer under a mandatory order, the school year will still include several pandemic measures, including mask-use and mandatory vaccines among staff.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Friday morning the measures are necessary to keep unvaccinated children safe.

"I know that nearly all staff and teachers have already gotten their vaccine and are looking to get their second shot if they have yet," Cardy said. "And we saw in the spring when a group of high school teachers had the chance to get vaccinated, we saw rates of uptake over 90 per cent."

Cardy has been a proponent for mandatory vaccines – and says he would support making it mandatory for students to get the shot too.

Staff or teachers that choose not to get the vaccine will be tested and have to wear a mask at all times. The details on testing are still to come, says Dr. Cristin Muecke.

Back-to-school measures are different for children in kindergarten to Grade 8, than those in high school.

Small class sizes or bubbles will no longer exist, but for kindergarten to grade eight students, masks will be required in indoor common areas. Assemblies and concerts will remain virtual and visitors will be limited.

High school students will return to full-time, in-person learning, instead of the day-on-day off schedule they had last year.

Those students will also need to be masked during assemblies and in common areas of school buildings until 90 per cent of students in their health zones are vaccinated.

"We believe that continuing the use of masks in schools, in common areas, along with other measures such as frequent hand washing and use of outdoor spaces where appropriate will minimize disruptions and limit the spread of the virus until further vaccination is possible," Dr. Muecke said.

Visitors at high schools will also be limited and all students will have to disinfect their own desks.

Students of all ages will also be required to wear a mask on buses.

Schools will be subject to frequent cleaning and fans will not be allowed in classrooms. If the outdoor temperature or humidex value is 36 C or above, students will learn from home.

Cardy says if one COVID-19 case is identified in a school, students will switch to remote learning and the building will be closed for at least one day to allow for contact tracing and a risk assessment.

The New Brunswick Teachers' Association president had a "prior commitment" and was unable to comment on the plan Friday.

But parent Teri McMackin, whose son is starting kindergarten in September, says the plan appears to balance safety and students' experience.

"I wanted to make sure when he started school that he had a good experience and that this was, you know, king of what I remember when I started school and making friends and the social aspect so I feel like these restrictions are still going to allow those things to happen," she said.

More guidance for early childhood centres will be released in the coming weeks.

The school year starts on Sept. 7. Top Stories

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