In the News
Reopening of Elementary and Secondary Schools
Parents’ and Educators’ Voices Must Be Heard!
Most elementary and secondary schools across Canada have now reopened, with students back in class. Students in Saskatchewan and the Yukon returned to class on January 4. Those in Alberta and British Columbia returned on January 10. In Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, they were back to school on January 17. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut saw them return on January 24. In Newfoundland and Labrador, students were back in school on January 25, whereas in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, it has been slated for January 31.
The media has reported that parents responded to the return to school with both excitement and anxiety. There’s no doubt, parents said, that young people belong in school for the sake of their learning and socialization, however proper safety measures must be in place. There have been reports of parents refusing to send their children to school and even participating in demonstrations with students, particularly in Manitoba, to protest the lack of safety measures for COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. Teachers have also held demonstrations, and education unions have protested a return to class that does not meet their demands for safe return.
Parents, teachers and other education workers are particularly concerned that governments have decided that school administrations will no longer be conducting contact tracing in schools with infected students or staff, which led to self isolation in cases where necessary. The reason given is that there are too many cases of infection with the Omicron variant and that they are allegedly mild in nature, unlike those caused by previous variants. A unilateral decision has been taken that the issue now is to learn to live with the virus.
Of course, none of this was discussed, let alone approved, by parents and teachers and education workers. The method of government by decree, of dictate, cannot create trust amongst workers and the population and cannot resolve crises in a way that benefits the society.
The demands of teachers and other education workers, including for adequate protective equipment, proper ventilation systems and classes with fewer students, must be met, and parents’ concerns must be seriously addressed.
(Workers’ Forum, posted January 27, 2022)