P.E.I. Teachers' Federation says back-to-school mask recommendations should be mandatory
Group does not make same push for mandatory vaccines for staff
Some of the P.E.I. Chief Public Health Office's back-to-school recommendations for mask-wearing should be made mandatory, the president of the provincial teachers' federation says.
"We have been in preliminary discussions with the education authorities about the possibility of making at least some of the CPHO's recommendations mandatory during the suggested timelines," P.E.I. Teachers' Federation president Aldene Smallman said in a statement.
"In particular, the recommendations regarding masks on buses, during transitions, and in schools that have students who are under 12 years of age and can't currently be vaccinated."
The provincial plan says that when there is low risk of community transmission, masks are "strongly recommended" for the unvaccinated and "recommended" for all staff who work with students who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 if physical distancing is not possible.
Until at least October, masks are recommended for anyone moving through a school building or on a school bus, and for staff in classrooms with kindergarten to Grade 6 students when physical distancing is not possible. These stricter recommendations would also remain in place during any "elevated risk" of community transmission.
The union's statement says it hasn't had the opportunity yet to get wide-ranging feedback from its members, but that it's concerned about the plan's impact on staff and students, particularly students in kindergarten to Grade 6.
Recommendations can be challenging to enforce, Smallman said.
"Some students will not wear their masks due to peer pressure, and others will simply not comply if they do not feel that doing so is a requirement."
No push for mandatory vaccination
The federation is not making a push for a vaccine mandate, however.
"Based on anecdotal information, we are confident that the vast majority of PEITF members are already fully vaccinated," she said. "What we hear from the government is that vaccination uptake rates overall on P.E.I. are very high."
The federation encourages everyone who is able to get the vaccine to do so, Smallman said.