'Not the time to be bursting the bubble': Parents, staff hope Maritime classrooms remain clear of COVID-19
HALIFAX -- As COVID-19 cases continue to emerge in Canadian schools, parents and staff in the Maritimes are hoping the same won't happen in the Atlantic bubble.
Monday, Ontario reported more than 270 school-related cases of the disease and one school has been shut down.
A school in Montreal was also closed due to COVID-19 on Monday.
There are no cases of COVID-19 in Maritime schools -- something Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health attributes to various factors.
"We still have almost no COVID," says Dr. Robert Strang. "And because we don't have COVID in our communities, there's no chance for COVID to get into our schools."
Parent Stacey Rudderham has two daughters in school in Grades 6 and 8. She says her children are happy to be back in school, and Rudderham is happy Nova Scotia has maintained the rules of self-isolation for those travelling into the Maritimes from outside the Atlantic bubble.
"We're really thankful that public health determined that this is not the time to be bursting the bubble," she said.
Even so, some parents still have concerns.
"We would really like to see more mask-wearing," says parent Martha Walls.
She and her husband, Corey Slumkoski, have been nervous about sending their seven-year-old daughter, Quinn, back to school. The Grade 1 student wears a mask at school, even though it's not required for her age group, because she is vulnerable to respiratory infections.
Walls and Slumkoski believe all students should be wearing masks in school, especially in situations where physical distancing is challenging.
"It strikes me that if a two-year-old has to wear a mask on an airplane, then a five and a six-year-old should be able to wear a mask for as long as possible if they're attending school," says Slumkoski.
"We do feel that schools are doing their absolute best under the circumstances in which they're working," adds Walls. "We feel like there's a wider infrastructure problem that probably can't be solved for this pandemic, but certainly moving forward we would hope to see some of those broader systemic changes made to make schools safer."
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union also has continuing concerns around reported delays getting through to the province's 811 telephone service for booking COVID-19 testing.
Union president Paul Wozney says the current delays both in booking a test, and in receiving the results, are only going to be exacerbated when the height of flu season arrives.
"Some people are projecting to miss three weeks of school just because they exhibit symptoms on one particular day," he says. "It's a big deal."
Strang says Nova Scotia schools are prepared to enter different phases if COVID-19 spreads into the community and into schools.
"We already have plans in place if we need to shift and enhance the preventative measures in schools, we can do that," he says. "One of the most important things would be that blended model -- kids in Grade 9 and up start learning from home, which gives us more space to enhance the spacing for younger grades."
Maritime officials have said if cases show up in schools, any decision to close a classroom or even a whole facility would be made on a case-by-case basis, with contact tracing in place.