PEI

School staff being threatened following school reopening, school boards say

Staff at P.E.I. schools have been the target of "inappropriate behaviour" and even some threats from parents complaining about new COVID-19 guidelines, the province's Public Schools Branch says.

PSB says COVID-19 cases in schools not surprising

The PSB said its average absence rates is at around 10 per cent. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Staff at P.E.I. schools have been the target of "inappropriate behaviour" and some threats from parents complaining about new COVID-19 guidelines, the province's Public Schools Branch says.

It's been four days since in-person classes resumed on P.E.I. and, according to PSB director Norbert Carpenter, the branch has seen an increase in the number of complaints lodged at school staff.

He said staff have been the subject of harassment and threats, and that there's been a "handful of situations" where the PSB requested the assistance of police. 

"We don't think it's acceptable at all for people to be, you know, cursing and yelling about things that [staff has] little control over. We're all in this together. And the guidelines that are before us, it's not the fault of our front-line workers," Carpenter said.

"We do realize people are tired. This has been a lot. It's been a lot for our communities and our parents and our students and our staff. But we just ask people to be respectful."

Complaints have come through email, over the phone and in social media, and are often anonymous, Carpenter said.

COVID-19 in schools

So far, over 20 schools have been identified as potential COVID-19 exposure sites, though the situation isn't entirely unexpected, Carpenter said.

'Students are doing their very best,' says PSB director Norbert Carpenter. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"Schools do reflect society, and we're seeing case counts in society quite high," he said.

"We are not surprised that we have cases in our schools. We knew this was going to happen. We worked closely with [Public Health] over the last few days to refine a process so we can keep people in the know as much as is manageable at this point."

Schools still have ample supplies when it comes to testing kits, Carpenter said. More features have been added to the school alert system as well, such as the ability for parents to opt in for text notifications.

Students are also taking well to new COVID-19 protocols.

"Students are doing their very best," he said. "The compliance rate is very high. Of course, we're all human and we need reminders here and there. But overall, it's going well." 

10% absence rates

The situation is similar for P.E.I.'s French-language school board, though superintendent Gilles Arsenault said it hasn't gotten to the point where the French-language board has had to contact the police.

"There are people that are opposed to certain regulations and layers that have been put in place to make sure that we return to a safe learning environment, so it's different from the English-language school board." Arsenault said.

"We have also to note that we do have quite a few less schools than the Public Schools Branch … people for the most part have been very reasonable."

None of the six French-language schools have been a potential exposure site yet.

Arsenault said he's happy with that trend, as well as the high compliance rates when it comes to COVID-19 protocols.

Attendance rates for French-language schools are also high, ranging from 80 to 96 per cent.

"Under normal circumstances, we would be looking at an average of eight to 10 per cent for the attendance rate of people not being in school," Arsenault said.

"We're really in that range, and we're really happy that the parents and the community members have decided that they wanted to put their trust into the system and making sure that the kids returned to an in-person learning environment."

The PSB said its average absence rate is around 10 per cent.

Of K-9 students in PSB schools, 14.8 per cent weren't in class on Thursday for a total of 2,229 absences and 372 students in grades 10-12, or 7.6 per cent, were absent.

With files from Tony Davis

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