PEI

P.E.I.'s back-to-school plan 'vague and incomplete,' Green leader says

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker says the province's back-to-school plan is vague and not strict enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Students' mental health, schools' ventilation systems should be further detailed, Bevan-Baker says

'There's a real complacency here, and a crossing of the fingers that things are going to be OK,' Peter Bevan-Baker says. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says the province's back-to-school plan is vague and not strict enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

"It presents more questions than it does answers," he said.

"They had many many months to come forward with this plan, and I would have expected it to be clear and comprehensive and instead we have something that's very vague and incomplete."

Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly also criticized the plan, saying the guidelines should be stricter than just "suggestions."

"It's the wording in there. It's the 'recommendations,'" he said. "Coming out of the pandemic, that gets a little bit difficult to figure out. I just want to make sure that that gets cleaned up a little bit and it just doesn't become a suggestion. There just needs to be clearer rules."

Bevan-Baker said there are few requirements throughout the plan as much as there are "strong recommendations."

The plan, posted to the government website Monday, offers guidance that changes depending on whether the Island is in a "low risk" or "elevated-risk" scenario when it comes to COVID-19 transmission.

The Chief Public Health Office recommends some enhanced mask measures remain in place until at least October, with masks recommended:

  • For anybody moving through school buildings (not seated in classrooms).
  • For staff in classrooms from kindergarten to Grade 6.
  • For anyone on school buses.

Also, masks are "strongly recommended" for the unvaccinated as well as for staff, but are not required.

Bevan-Baker said government should have aligned its back-to-school plan with last year's policies on mandatory masks and school cohorts, for example. He said this current plan is "as if the pandemic is over."

"It's a pattern of this government, of a seeming inability to make a clear decision on a difficult issue. That suggests a lack of competent leadership," he said.

"There's a real complacency here, and a crossing of the fingers that things are going to be OK, and we've seen in other jurisdictions that that's not necessarily the case."

'We need to invest money to improve ventilation'

Bevan-Baker said there should have been more of a focus on students' mental health.

In the document, there is one mention of mental health that reads: "It is our responsibility to ensure that students learn but also thrive and that their mental health and well-being is a priority."

'We need to invest money to improve ventilation in schools. So I'm not quite sure which schools are not meeting standards,' Bevan-Baker says. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

He added that there should be more information from government on school ventilation. Earlier this year, it was reported that 10 schools on P.E.I. did not have modern ventilation systems.

"There's no mention of which schools, for example, do not meet current standards," he said.

"We need to invest money to improve ventilation in schools. So I'm not quite sure which schools are not meeting standards."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Kerry Campbell

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now