Skip to content

Near North Board comfortable with province's back to school plan

'We can fit within those parameters'
20200202 near north school board logo on wall turl
Near North District School Board. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

The provincial government’s long-awaited back to school plan and the Near North District School Board supports it.  

"We can fit within those parameters," Jay Aspin, Near North District School Board Chair, told CKAT. 

"It has been a goal post moving process because nobody has been through this before. It is a health concern and everybody has got to be careful.

"Health is number one with this thing because the safety of our students, staff and in fact all the education community is paramount.  You know you don't want to put anyone at risk here and we want to minimize that risk," continued Aspin.  

All Boards are expected to submit a plan by next week and board chair Jay Aspin says that is something they can work with.

At the Near North Board, any parent who has a child from elementary to secondary school and wants their child in class will be able to send them to school. Their plan was unveiled Thursday night during an online Near North School Board meeting.  

Superintendent of Education Tim Graves says face coverings will be part of the school experience for teachers and students.

“All staff will be required in almost every instance to wear medical-grade masks. There will be a few exceptions. We know students in grades 4-12 will be required to wear non-medical masks or cloth face coverings,” Graves told CKAT, noting that younger students will also be encouraged to wear face coverings.

 Aspin says the plan includes strict guidelines around what to do if a student or teacher comes down with COVID-19.  

“If it does happen there will be protocols in place to handle that type of situation including contact tracing,” Aspin said. 

Aspin insists there is government support for school boards in the event of positive cases.

“They recognized that it might occur and they planned for it and provided resources for it to accommodate these situations,” he said. 

The government has set aside $309 million in funding to make the plan work including $60 million for personal protective equipment and $80 million for extra staffing.

The school board will be putting together kits in consultation with the Health Unit when someone notices a child showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Graves says a secondary school day will change for students as it’s likely they won’t be able to go to different classrooms during the day.

Elementary students will be in school full time, and their classes won’t be broken up into smaller groups but there will be less mixing than usual but going outside and into the gym will occur.

Parents will also have the option to keep their kids out of class and there will be options for remote learning.

He says they received 2,700 responses in a recent survey and 20 per cent indicated a desire by parents to keep their child at home and not attend school.

"This is the best way we can get the school system going and the best way we can accommodate and there is lots of flexibility within," said Aspin.