N.S. parents and teachers call on government to release info on COVID-19 exposures at schools
As parent Brittany Snow peruses a list of Nova Scotia schools affected by COVID-19 exposures, she worries what it means for the safety of her children, who are too young to be vaccinated.
“I’m definitely concerned,” says Snow. “I think it’s really important for parents and the community to protect those who are most vulnerable.”
That list of affected schools – which includes 19 so far – is being compiled not by the provincial government, but by a concerned group of parents. While Snow is happy someone is making the information available, she feels government should be doing the job.
“I think it adds to the lack of trust towards the government, and I think it's important to be transparent so people can respond accordingly.”
A volunteer group, ‘Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education’, began compiling the information being sent to them by parents and teachers when it saw government wasn’t making such details public.
Group moderator Stacey Rudderham, who is also a parent of school-aged children, says only verified information, such as a letter or email from an official school source or Nova Scotia Public Health, is used.
“We are the only place where they are able to get information about existing school cases,” says Rudderham.
Rudderham says she’s hearing from many parents and staff members about schools affected by potential COVID-19 exposures and cases.
She is also hearing from people who didn’t know there was a case at their school at all.
“We're hearing from them that they've not been informed and that they found about the case from our list, on social media,” says Rudderham.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Education wouldn't give CTV News a list of affected schools in the province today.
According to the department, principals are supposed to notify the wider school community of any potential exposures.
The province’s chief medical officer of health says there's been no evidence the virus being transmitted at schools and says schools continue to be safe.
Dr. Robert Strang says anyone at a school who may have been exposed to a case is being notified, and that parents should trust Public Health.
“If their child might have been exposed, they will be notified,” said Strang. “And keep following the basic precautions.”
Strang does say public health may start reporting some school-related data soon.
“We are looking at starting to report in total as part of our weekly epidemiological summaries specific to schools.”
In a message sent to teachers late Friday and obtained by CTV, the regional executive director of the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, Elwin LeRoux, sought to address concerns “from a staff member yesterday asking about a COVID-19 case connected to their school,” and “why it took so long for staff to be notified when the information was shared on social media.”
In the message, LeRoux states Public Health’s approach to COVID cases connected to schools is “different from last year.”
“In the social media age, information is shared at the speed of light,” he writes, “This process isn’t that fast but we do communicate as soon as Public Health gives direction at the end of their investigation.”
The issue is one the head of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union says he’s raising with the province.
Paul Wozney says he’s also heard of cases instances where teachers weren't notified of a case related to their school.
Nova Scotia was listing potential school exposures as recently as the last school year.
Wozney says the province needs to start doing that again.
“It’s only Alberta, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia nationally that aren't providing this data to parents and students and staff.”
Rudderham says it’s information that is important to the whole community.
“If (students are) in the schools and there are cases there, they're also in sports, they're in clubs, they’re in church, daycares are also speaking to us,” says Rudderham. “It isn't just in the schools, if it's in the schools.”
“It's very telling that this is coming from the parents and not the government,” says Snow. She would like the province to release accurate information to keep rumors and misinformation at bay – and help parents like her make the decision needed to keep their children safe.