PEI

P.E.I. Home and School Federation says extension of school closures a 'relief'

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation says it welcomes the government's decision to further delay a return to in-class learning.

'We really do want the kids to go back to school'

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation's Heather Mullen says some questions still remain as to what a return to in-person learning will look like. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation says it welcomes the government's decision to further delay a return to in-class learning.

President Heather Mullen said she's pleased to hear school closures will be extended until at least Jan. 17. The decision was announced by the province at a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

"I think a lot of parents and caregivers across P.E.I. probably hold a sense of relief that it gave us a bit more time to understand what's happening next and what we can do to better protect our children."

On Monday, the federation's board held an emergency meeting to discuss the concerns they were hearing from parents and other members of the community.

Mullen said they outlined some of these concerns in a letter that was sent to the province.

"We just found we had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers," she said. 

"We were hearing concerns about what sort of masks would they wear, what the ventilation is going to be at the school, what will the cohorts look like, what happens at lunchtime, what happens if my child gets sick and how sick will Omicron make them."

Mullen said there are also concerns regarding potential staff shortages and students who haven't had a chance to get vaccinated yet. She's also heard from parents who are worried about how they will take care of their children while they remain at home.

The P.E.I. Teachers' Federation brought up some of the same concerns on Monday, when it asked the province to extend the closures.

Mullen said some other positive news was announced, like more vaccine clinics for students, but she also said some questions haven't been answered.

At the briefing, Premier Dennis King said the province doesn't intend to extend the restrictions indefinitely.

"It's not our intention to stay in this restriction situation for any longer than we need to," he said. "The when will be determined by the science, the how — that is what we're working on."

Mullen said the federation will be monitoring the situation closely, but from what they're seeing right now, it seems the province is still "on the right track" for schools to reopen at some point in January.

"We really do want the kids to go back to school," she said. "We don't want or enjoy online learning. Everybody knows the benefit of having the students in school. School is much more than the book learning."

With files from Steve Bruce

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