N.S. parents question communication around COVID-19 in schools
If Angela Khan graded public health and her children's school on its communication around school closures and re-openings, she would give a 50 per cent mark.
When her children's school Dartmouth South Academy closed due to COVID-19 a week ago — parents were told at 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday night. They were also told via email that testing was "strongly recommended."
A week later, parents were also notified at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday that school would resume the next day. They sent an email which stated:
"As a reminder, Public Health is strongly recommending that all students and staff get tested for COVID-19. Your child should have a negative test result from Oct. 23 or 24 testing before returning to school."
"It seemed like it was saying maybe don't come to school if you haven't received a negative result," Khan said. "It led some folks to wonder if you had only received one negative, but they hadn't received two negatives, can they still send their kids to school?"
It was all confusing given that last week clarified testing was strongly recommended but not mandatory, citing the logistical challenges and challenges around monitoring that would entail.
Dartmouth South Academy was one of three schools closed last week in Halifax. Joseph Howe School and Ecole Mer et Monde are scheduled to re-open Tuesday.
Nova Scotia Parents for Education has been advocating for the province to release more information around COVID-19 cases in schools and the rationale behind decisions to close schools.
"There could be much more communication and we could be treated like active citizens as opposed to over-panicking parents," said Deborah McNamara with the group."I think in most cases parents just want information so they can prepare."
Jenna MacQueen, spokesperson with Nova Scotia’s Department of Education, said the province understands parents are concerned and want as much information as they can get.
"Public health works hard to find an appropriate balance between providing the public with information about COVID-19 exposures in schools and the protection of privacy while minimizing the risk of stigmatization," MacQueen said.
Meanwhile in New Brunswick, its dashboard shows 38 schools are currently affected by COVID-19, meaning a portion of the student population is learning from home due to self-isolations or requirements to complete point-of-care testing following a confirmed case at the school.
Jenna Morton lives near Salisbury. She wonders every day whether the next school with a case will be where her kids go.
"I wake up and I check my email right away to see whether or not they have to stay home," Morton said.
Her twin sons in Grade 3 and daughter in Grade 5 are looking forward to celebrating Halloween in school.
"They are going to allow the children to dress up on the Friday before Halloween," Morton said.
"We have the option of sending some treats in if they're individually packaged and safe in that respect."
In Nova Scotia, the province said Halloween celebrations are up to the principal of each school as they are responsible for ensuring public health measures are followed.
"I expect we'll receive some individual communication from individual teachers this week about what their plans are for Halloween. They usually tend to still try to celebrate it in the classroom," Khan said.