Coronavirus: N.B. education minister clarifies policy outlined in recent travel memo to teachers, students

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick bans international travellers from schools for two weeks'
New Brunswick bans international travellers from schools for two weeks
WATCH: The province's education minister is introducing tougher restrictions for travellers in light of COVID-19. Shelley Steeves has more. – Mar 10, 2020

Education Minister Dominic Cardy held a press conference Tuesday in Fredericton to provide more clarity on a memo that was sent home to parents.

The memo sent on Monday evening stated that children, students, staff, volunteers and family members returning home from international locations after March 8 are to stay away from schools, early learning facilities and school district offices for 14 days.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nearly 100,000 COVID-19 cases spark global economy concerns

The memo also stated that all school-related international travel has been cancelled for the rest of the school year.

“I think it is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to some pressure from people who are scared,” said Moncton mother Lesley Northrup, who said she understands the province’s need to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But she questions why the restrictions do not apply to travel to other parts of Canada where cases of the virus have been confirmed.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nearly 100,000 COVID-19 cases spark global economy concern

Cardy said there are decisions that he as minister of education cannot take and must come from the federal government.

However, he did clarify that the memo is to remind people that they need to work together and show “social responsibility.”

“I’m not [standing here] as a police officer,” said Cardy.

He also said the memo doesn’t mean that someone living in Woodstock can’t go buy milk or work in Maine.

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READ MORE: N.B. requiring teachers, students to avoid schools for 14 days after visiting 

“I’m asking people to act as citizens, and protect everyone in school.”

Northrup and her 17-year-old daughter Isabella were wrapping up their March break vacation in Southern California when they received the emailed memo.

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“I think that the decision has not been made using logical thinking,” said Northrup.

She said her daughter will now miss part of her graduating year at Riverview High School upon their return.

“How do they plan to educate her, will they do Skype classes?”

Those details were not outlined in the memo, but the education minister did mention broadly at the conference that lessons would be broadcasted, and that the province is currently looking into that.

Moncton’s Lynn Fougere is another concerned mother of a 15-year-old daughter who has been looking for clarification as to whether or not the restrictions also apply to parents travelling outside of Canada without their kids.

READ MORE: New Brunswick public health officials issue guidelines for coronavirus

She is heading to Las Vegas for work on Thursday and doesn’t want her daughter to be forced to miss school upon her return because of her work schedule.

“I think it is horrible. It’s not here and how is this going to be policed in the schools?” said Fougere.

But Cardy said if parents travel alone, then there’s no need for students to stay out of school.

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Moreover, he also stated that he doesn’t anticipate the situation right now with the virus will lead to school closures, but believes short-term and long-term responses must be set in place in case the virus does hit the province.

Cardy said a hotline is being set up within the department for parents and concerned people to call for more information, adding that a number will be shared soon.

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