N.B. high school students returning to classrooms full-time, staff eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

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WATCH: High school students are headed back to class full-time next month. The province is moving quickly to offer vaccinations to high school teachers and staff first, and then teachers at elementary and middle schools. Travis Fortnum has the story – Mar 19, 2021

High school students across New Brunswick are returning to full-time in-person learning on April 12, according to the provincial government.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy said this means that all students in grades 9 through 12 will be learning in the classroom every day in the yellow and orange public health levels.

“Public Health fully supports the safe return of high school students to school,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a release.

“We will continue to provide guidance throughout the school year on various issues ranging from prevention measures to managing an outbreak and will support our students, families, educators and school staff every step of the way.”

Read more: Atlantic bubble returning by April 19 as long as COVID-19 numbers remain low

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The province said changes to the Return to School plan at the high school level include:

  • Students and staff will be required to wear a clean face mask throughout the day, unless eating or engaged in physical activity.
  • Additional spaces will be made available throughout the schools for lunch and breaks.
  • Mandatory seating plans will be implemented in classrooms and on buses.
  • If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed in a high school, it will close for three days to allow for contact tracing, school cleaning and testing of close contacts, and for vaccination programs for students and staff.

The province also announced that beginning Friday, all high school staff are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and will be receiving an invitation to participate in vaccination clinics next week organized by the regional health authorities.

In the coming weeks, more vaccination clinics will be available for staff in elementary and middle schools and for early childhood service providers and child-care staff.

High school students who are 16 and older with complex medical conditions are also eligible to receive the vaccine, the province stated.

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If a health zone moves to the red level, Public Health said it will provide direction to schools on whether to return to blended learning protocols. In that situation, individual learning plans will be developed for vulnerable students.

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“All other directives for school sports, music and extracurricular activities will remain in place,” the province said. “High schools at which students have already been attending full time, and K-8 schools will continue to follow existing operational plans.”

More information on proms and graduation ceremonies will be available in the coming weeks.

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