PEI

Committee to review P.E.I.'s back-to-school plan

MLAs on P.E.I.’s Standing Committee on Education and Economic Growth want top education officials to answer some questions about the province’s back-to-school plan.

Education minister, other top officials called on to answer questions before school year starts

Wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is being recommended for P.E.I. students in Grades 7-12 and for all staff. Students in Grades K-6 'may' wear masks where they can't physically distance. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

MLAs on P.E.I.'s Standing Committee on Education and Economic Growth want top education officials to answer some questions about the province's back-to-school plan.

On Tuesday, members of the committee agreed to call on Minister of Education Brad Trivers and senior staff from the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, the Public Schools Branch and La Commission scolaire de langue française, in the hope they can appear within the week.

Liberal MLA Robert Mitchell requested the review, saying it will allow the minister and others to provide clarity around the plans for returning to school.

"In discussions with some parents, there are questions," said Mitchell, referring to "transportation, the busing situation [and] staggered drop-off/pick-up times."

Mitchell also said parents are coming forward with questions around mask use, particularly by young children.

Parents feel 'uncertain': Lund

P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch, which administers English public schools in the province, released its guidelines on August 5 for the return to school. For students in Grades 7-12 and for all staff, it is "strongly recommended" they wear non-medical masks where physical distancing is not possible. The PSB says students in Grades K-6 "may" wear masks in similar situations.

In announcing the new guidelines last week, Trivers said plans for individual schools would be released by the end of this week.

"The reality is we're hearing from so many parents and teachers also who feel uncertain about what's going to happen," said Green MLA Lynne Lund.

"I'm hearing from a lot of parents in particular who are saying, 'If my child has a runny nose, does the whole family end up needing to stay home again?'"

If my child has a runny nose, does the whole family end up needing to stay home again?- MLA Lynne Lund, repeating what she's hearing from parents

She also wants to know what lessons the province learned after schools were shut down back in March, and what conditions of a so-called "second wave" of COVID-19 would trigger another shutdown.

"I have no doubt that there are experts who've been working on these plans but the reality is they haven't been particularly well communicated," said Lund.

The committee is asking Trivers and other officials to appear at a meeting Aug. 18 — or sooner if they're available.

"It's a short timeframe between now and the start of school," said Mitchell. "But I think we have some opportunity to ask some questions and get some really good answers."

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