Edmonton mom buys her kids protective desk shields — but school says leave them at home
‘All I’m asking for is just a little bit of extra protection’
Laura Meador wants to provide classroom desk shields for her two elementary-age children but has come up against a wall of refusal from school officials.
Meador purchased two clear polycarbonate desk shields to give her kids extra protection from COVID-19 but was informed by the principal at A. Blair McPherson school and Edmonton Public Schools officials that they are not allowed.
"As far as I'm aware, their concern is with students cleaning them but my children are already cleaning their desks several times a day," Meador said. "They're already cleaning the desks, why can't they clean the shields at the same time?"
Meador said she was also told that there are some concerns in terms of fairness, in that some students' families will be able to afford the shields while others won't.
"That makes sense until we consider Edmonton Public School Board's policy that students are encouraged to bring their own Chromebooks for safety reasons," she said.
"Chromebooks are $250 to $300, these shields are about $60 to $70."
The shields she purchased are produced in Edmonton by Lesko Rig Components Ltd., a manufacturer for the oil industry that is shifting into consumer products.
Meador said there are also some doubts about the effectiveness of the shields to prevent the spread of the virus but she believes the physical barrier also has a psychological effect.
"Kids are kids, when they walk around they touch things, they bump into things," she said. "This is just another layer of protection to kind of say 'Hey, this is my space, I'm going to keep my stuff in my space.' It's just delineating the space for my children."
Meador said there are 33 students in her daughter's Grade 3 class and 28 in her son's Grade 6 class. She acknowledges that those numbers aren't the school's fault but it is cause for worry.
"The principal has been wonderful in communicating what they're doing to keep kids safe and I truly believe that they're trying their best. All I'm asking for is just a little bit of extra protection," she said.
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In a statement emailed to CBC News, Edmonton Public Schools spokesperson Megan Normandeau said that the district's re-entry strategy is "built around masks, good hand hygiene, cleaning standards, staying home when ill, cohorts and physical distancing where possible."
Families are advised not to send plexiglass desk shields to school, she said. Personal face shields, on the other hand, are allowed if families choose to provide them.
"Plexiglass shields pose a number of operational challenges when used for individual students in the classroom," such as cleaning and disinfecting, Normandeau said.
Schools in the Edmonton Catholic division are also not using desk shields in classrooms, said spokesperson Lori Nagy.
Masks are mandatory for students in grades 4 to 12 and encouraged for younger students, she said in an email to CBC News.
"We are not providing desk shields for each student in class since physical distancing and masks provide the protection necessary as outlined by the province," Nagy said, adding there have been no requests yet from parents to use them.
The Parkland School Division, based in Stony Plain, is using the shields in certain situations but not at the request of parents, according to spokesperson Jordi Weidman.
Shields "have been added to learning environments on a case-by-case basis," depending on the activity or program, Weidman said. "There is not widespread use nor has there been a bulk purchase of dividers to dispense to schools across our division."