For Immediate Release
February 10, 2021

NLTA Questioning Decisions For Schools After Confirmed Community Spread of COVID-19

St. John’s… The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association is questioning whether decisions made in response to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in a Mount Pearl high school go far enough to protect our students, staff and communities. The confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in the metro area highlights the NLTA’s repeated concerns regarding the level of Public Health precautions in schools. Students and staff do not live their lives in a school “bubble.” The inter-connectedness of metro area school communities is a reality that must be considered in ongoing responses and decision making around this rapidly evolving situation.

“It was the right decision to close high schools in the metro St. John’s region and increase access to testing for affected students, staff and close contacts of confirmed positive cases,” said Dean Ingram, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association. “However, given the numerous connections and overlaps within and among metro school communities, we should be doing more to get the community spread under control. Parents are concerned. Students are concerned. Our members are concerned. As I have said before, schools are where all of the homes, workplaces and interactions in our communities come together. Will the ‘circuit break’ announced by Dr. Fitzgerald really be effective if the only precautions tightened are those that apply outside of schools?”

The NLTA is asking government and Public Health officials to rethink how it can be safe to continue with students and school staff spending extended periods of time in close quarters, often with 30 plus students in a classroom, with little or no physical distancing and weak or no mask requirements.

The NLTA is also asking why teachers in those schools for which in-class instruction has been suspended would not have the option to work from home, particularly in light of explicit recommendations and advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

“Public Health has directed the suspension of in-class instruction for 13 metro St. John’s area schools, and government and the school districts have invested in technology that would allow teachers to work from home in such circumstances,” said President Ingram. “Government’s K-12 Education Re-entry Plan states that teachers ‘may’ be required to be in attendance at school in the event of a suspension or cancellation of in-school classes. However, Dr. Fitzgerald very clearly articulated during the most recent COVID-19 briefings that anyone in the metro area who is able to work from home should work from home. In light of this and the confirmation of continued community spread of COVID-19 in the St. John’s metro area, it is our position that teachers at those schools should have the option of working from home when they have the means and ability to do so.”

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For further information contact:
Jennifer Tulk, NLTA Communications, Tel: 682-3751(cellular); jtulk@nlta.nl.ca