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New Brunswick’s Return to School plans include support for vulnerable students; testing for staff

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New Brunswick announced on Thursday that support will continue to be available for students with significant medical conditions who are returning to school on Sept. 8.

Families of vulnerable students are also being asked to consult with their health-care provider to determine whether it is safe for them to attend school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: New Brunswick releases updated plan for upcoming school year amid coronavirus

“If they are advised that the student should not attend school, families are encouraged to contact the school principal beginning Aug. 31 to discuss plans to ensure they can continue learning at home,” the province said in a press release.

According to the province, districts and schools will work with the families of medically vulnerable students to develop a plan to make sure that they have consistent access to education, based upon their needs and situation.

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“Students currently on personalized learning plans will continue to follow their plans.”

Read more: New Brunswick announces details on day-to-day structure of upcoming school year

In the meantime, all students in kindergarten through Grade 8 who are not medically vulnerable will attend school full-time.

Many high school students will also be attending classes every other day, but the province said that high school students with complex needs will attend full-time to ensure consistent access to the services and support they need.

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Families will also be contacted between Aug. 31 and Sept. by the Educational Support Services teams to work with them in the development of their child’s personalized learning plan, according to the government.

“Any students who have previously been provided assistive technology will continue to have access to that technology. This applies to students in all grades,” the province said.

The government also stated that any student whose family has decided not to send them to school for any reason or because of the pandemic will be required to complete the annual home-school request form.

COVID-19 testing to be made available 

At the press briefing Thursday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced that Public Health will make COVID-19 testing available for asymptomatic teachers or school staff who are concerned about potential exposure to the virus.

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“Providing regular testing for asymptomatic teachers and school staff will help to better identify and isolate cases in schools,” said Russell.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: New Brunswick to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing for school staff, teachers' Coronavirus: New Brunswick to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing for school staff, teachers
Coronavirus: New Brunswick to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing for school staff, teachers – Aug 20, 2020

Transportation

The topic of transportation was also discussed at the briefing, with health officials stating that unless a student is staying home for medical reasons, vulnerable students travelling on a school bus will follow the same directives previously shared by the department.

These directives include having all students sit in the same seat on their school bus every day.

To promote physical distancing, buses will be filled from back to front. Clear curtains are also being installed to provide a physical barrier between bus drivers and students while students are getting on and off the bus.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: New Brunswick to require masks on school buses for students in grades 6 to 12' Coronavirus: New Brunswick to require masks on school buses for students in grades 6 to 12
Coronavirus: New Brunswick to require masks on school buses for students in grades 6 to 12 – Aug 20, 2020

“Since K-5 students are not required to wear masks, they will sit one student per seat, or with a member of their household. Students in Grades 6 to 12 wearing masks will sit two to a seat, but do not have to wear masks if they are sitting alone or with a member of their household,” the province said.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has released a parent and public guide supporting the Return to School: September 2020 plan for the public school system.

The Return to School: Guide for Parents and the Public provides a detailed overview of what students, parents and guardians need to know before returning to school in September.