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COVID-19: N.B. educators worry about distribution of proper masks ahead of schools re-opening

Click to play video: 'Reaction to New Brunswick’s return to in-person classes' Reaction to New Brunswick’s return to in-person classes
WATCH: New Brunswick’s education minister says he’s hopeful students will return to in-person learning on Jan. 31. Teachers and others who work in schools say they want that to happen too, but only with the right resources and protective equipment. Nathalie Sturgeon reports – Jan 25, 2022

The New Brunswick Education Minister is optimistic students will return to in-person learning as planned on Jan. 31 following an update on the back to school plan Monday, but some are questioning whether the proper protective resources will be in place.

“We know that distance learning is not an ideal situation,” said Dominic Cardy in French during the briefing on Monday. “For the time, we’re hoping to return to in-person learning next Monday, Jan. 31.”

However, as students are scheduled to return to the classroom in less than a week, the concern of proper amounts of personal protective equipment have surfaced as well.

CUPE 2754 President Thersea McAllister said some of her members have received on KN95 mask and one substandard 3-layered mask from the department, but she didn’t know if that extended to other trades like bus drivers and custodians.

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Read more: COVID-19 - N.B. education minister says ‘hopefully’ students will be back in class on Jan. 31

Allison Taylor, an educational assistant, has only received one mask, which she doesn’t feel is enough. She said support staff are often lost in the mix. She worries only teachers will get the PPE and those working elsewhere in the education sector will be forced to buy their own.

Taylor purchased N95 masks herself — nearly $70 for 50 of them.

“I hope everybody, all the staff (are) included, for (the) safety of the kids, for the safety of us to make sure that the learning is happening and there aren’t other things distracting (us),” she said in an interview Tuesday. “So, we can go back to being as normal I guess as possible and providing a safe environment for everyone knowing that we have all the tools to do that.”

Taylor is in favour of returning to in-person learning but said the right resources much be there in order to do that, adding even the current level of students in-person is overwhelming.

On Monday, Cardy was asked whether all staff would be included in the rollout including education assistants, bus drivers and custodians among others, and he confirmed that to be the case.

“They’ve all gone out, there are sufficient numbers, and they are for all professional staff,” he said.

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Editor’s note: This article was updated Jan. 27 with a correction. Fifty N95 masks were purchased for $69.99. Global News regrets the error. 

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