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LETTER: A teacher's plea for a solid COVID-19 plan

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Let’s hit the nail right on the head — we don’t have a plan.

I’m a new teacher, just graduated. I’ll have spent this pandemic both as student and teacher. (My internship ended prematurely when schools closed in March). Both roles are stressful, and that’s as an adult.

I can only imagine students in K-12 schools. I’ve talked to my professors and others in my program. I’ve talked to current, experienced teachers. I’ve even spoken with some of my students.

We all have one thing in common. We’re all terrified, because what keeps playing over and over in all of our heads is “Kids need school, and plans be damned.”

I’m trying to apply for jobs here. I want to teach in my home province. But all we’ve really had from government is crickets. There’s no clarity on what is going to classify different security levels for schools. It feels like a free-for-all, where each school has to make its own rules. Face masks aren’t mandated. There aren’t any specifications for more janitorial staff, for proper cleaning.

Class sizes aren’t being reduced, or even looked at. Students and teachers alike don’t feel safe. We need to go back, there's no question about it, But we definitely don’t feel secure. Because of that, we’re also angry.

We teach the next generations and our impact can last a lifetime. No one wants a teacher who doesn’t know what they’re doing. That’s what is going to happen, but not due to academic material. Moreso, it's about precautions needed to keep students and communities safe. Even if we’re clear of positive Coronavirus cases, we still need to be careful. We’ve all seen spikes happen due to asymptomatic cases and unknown positives. We don’t need to see what happens with a spike in a school community.

We’re government workers, and we have a union to fight for our rights. Our students have rights too — they’re all entitled to education and have a right to feel safe in our care.

We're taught to act "in loco parentis," in the place of a prudent parent. As it stands, I cannot feel confident students are safe in my classroom. As it stands, I cannot feel safe in my own classroom.

But government doesn’t seem to be answering the questions us teachers, our students or our union pose. We got one vague document, while our worries were hushed. We have a month to go to prepare, and we don’t know where we’re going to start. We can’t take a step until we know what foot we’re using first.

Now, please don’t take this as me being crotchety for having to go back to work. I didn’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), so I need to work. I want to work — this is my dream. I know the impact of a good teacher and want to be that teacher.

I hate having to stay home. We’re all stressed, because we don’t know which way is up.

Our government expects us to go back to a version of “normal” in three weeks, but we’ve heard nothing. And because we’ve heard nothing, we’re getting louder, as this silence is deafening.

Our students — each new, precious face coming into our classrooms — deserves to be heard. We, as teachers, experienced and new, must be heard.

We teach the next generations and our impact can last a lifetime. No one wants a teacher who doesn’t know what they’re doing. That’s what is going to happen, but not due to academic material. Moreso, it's about precautions needed to keep students and communities safe. Even if we’re clear of positive Coronavirus cases, we still need to be careful. We’ve all seen spikes happen due to asymptomatic cases and unknown positives. We don’t need to see what happens with a spike in a school community.

We need answers and support. Let me reiterate; we’re three weeks from going back. That’s not a lot of time to reinvigorate an entire sector of society.

I know we’ve been living on Health Minister Dr. John Haggie jokes and saying “Oh my God, 2020 is terrible.” But we have to get past that.

We need to know precisely the steps our government will take to ensure the safety of every school community. We need clear definitions of what circumstances are needed for different levels of education. We need clarity on class sizes and program plans. We need students in a room to have space between them. I liked the idea of scheduled, separate cohorts.

We need to know now what exams will look like.

We’re likely going to need to mandate face masks for students and staff.

We might have no active cases when we go back, but I know you don’t want to risk your child’s health. Don’t risk others’ either.

We might need screening efforts for students and staff. One missed positive can lead to a provincial quarantine all over again.

We know blanket policies won’t work, and things will constantly be changing, but we still need leadership.

We don’t need extra time to sugarcoat statements — we need facts and plans.

Just talk to us, because our kids’ education hinges on this conversation. We need to make this plan clear as crystal to everyone.

Brandon Boland,
St. John's

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