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New Brunswick high school student says province ‘didn’t really think it through’ on back-to-class plan

Click to play video: 'COVID concerns raised over crowded high school once students return full-time' COVID concerns raised over crowded high school once students return full-time
WATCH: As high school teachers across the province continued to receive their vaccinations today. There’s growing apprehension among some high school students about returning to classrooms full time in mid-April. Shelley Steeves reports – Mar 26, 2021

Grade 12 student Madison Shurgarue of Riverview, N.B., said she is not at all on board with the province’s decision to return high school students to school full-time after Easter.

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

“They really didn’t think it through. The classrooms are not big enough to be able to keep a distance and not all students follow social distancing protocols and wear their masks at all times,” she said.

Her mother, Chalene Shugarue, supports the province’s decision but also understands her daughter’s apprehensions.

“It’s a little concerning because I know that there are big classes,” she said.

She said that she is comforted by the fact that high school teachers across the province are being vaccinated this week.

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But the superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, Gregg Ingersoll, said that given the sheer number of high school students returning full-time in mid-April, “physical distancing is going to be something that is very challenging, especially in the classroom.”

He said that even with classroom limits set at 29 amid the pandemic, students will have to be masked in the classroom and in the hallways at all times.

“It was challenging enough to have one metre between 15 students, but to have 29 in there and maintain one metre will be pretty much impossible,” he said.

He said the district is still waiting for a formal return-to-school protocol from the N.B. Department of Education. He said assigned seating in the classrooms and on the buses may be implemented to allow for contract tracing should there be a positive case reported at a school.

Should a case be reported in one of the high schools in the district after April 12, Ingersoll said the school will be shut down for at least three days or longer if there is a presumptive variant case and students will return to at-home learning for the duration of the closure.

Read more: Moncton High School closed due to COVID-19 case

Crowded schools and the enforcement of masks are a concern for some high school teachers, according to Rick Cuming, president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association. But he said he supports the decision to return all students to the classroom.

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“This is the best place for kids to be. Technology is going to enhance what teachers do but it is never going to replace what teachers do. ”

Riverview mother Karen Candy said she is looking forward to her daughter’s return to the classroom.

“Our kids will benefit academically and socially just all the skills by being at school.”

As for Madison, her grades actually went up with at-home learning and she said that she is concerned for her safety.

“Teachers can tell students to put their mask on properly but they won’t the second they are past, they will put it back down.”

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