New Brunswick teachers union says province should stick with hybrid high school

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The New Brunswick Teachers Association says calling off the return to full-time in-person high school was the right move – but says students and staff don’t need any more changes to close out the pandemic school year – Apr 12, 2021

The union representing teachers in New Brunswick says the province should halt any plans to make changes for the rest of the school year.

High school students in the province were set to return to in-person learning full-time Monday, but that plan was put on hold Saturday as concerning variants of COVID-19 spread.

Minister of Health Dorothy Shephard said the plan would be revisited in two weeks, but the New Brunswick Teachers Association (NBTA) says the 2020-2021 school year has seen enough flip-flopping already.

“We’ve been on the yo-yo of changes long enough,” says union boss Rick Cuming.

“The system definitely needs some stability.”

Read more: N.B. parents, students, minister ‘relieved’ full-time classroom learning delayed

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Depending on the public health zone, schools of all grade levels have had to alter operational plans numerous times since the fall as recovery levels change.

For the most part, that’s seen high school students spend some days in class and others participating in online learning in a blended learning method.

Elementary and middle school students have physically been in school full-time when in the Orange or Yellow recovery phases — and recently in the Red, too.

Cuming says he recognizes face-to-face learning as the optimal option, but the NBTA supports putting the brakes on getting teens back in class.

“It’s been absolutely crucial since the beginning that safety was the number one priority and, with the variants now present in our community, teachers were questioning the safety of schools.”

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The plan to bring all highschoolers back full-time was announced March 19, and initially supported by the union.

It has been recent that attitudes in the halls have changed.

“I would say that in the last week or so I could sense that the feeling in our schools was changing,” says Zoë Watson, superintendent of the Anglophone South School District.

Read more: Some parents feeling anxious as N.B. high schoolers prepare to return to class full-time

Watson says she learned of the about-face about 45 minutes before the province publicly announced it this past weekend — and a lot of work ensued to scrap nearly a month, adjusting everything from seating plans to school bus routes.

“This is a pandemic,” she says, “and it’s an evolving situation.”

The province has stated its intention to revisit the paused return to high school in the last week of April.

Watson won’t place bets on what that re-visitation might look like, but Cuming says to call the whole thing off.

“To consider doing yet another transition in this year of multiple changes, where the end of the school year is right on the horizon, it just doesn’t seem like an efficient use of the energy that’s left in this system,” he says.

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Most schools are expected to break for the summer June 25, two months after the province will make its decision.

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