Parents and teachers in Nova Scotia call on government to release information on COVID-19 exposures in schools

HALIFAX – As mother Brittany Snow browses a list of schools in Nova Scotia affected by COVID-19 exposures, she worries about what this means for the safety of her children, who are too young to be vaccinated .

“I’m really worried,” Snow says. “I think it’s really important for parents and the community to protect those who are most vulnerable.

This list of affected schools – which includes 19 to date – is not compiled by the provincial government, but by a group of concerned parents. While Snow is happy that someone is making the information available, she thinks the government should do the job.

“I think that adds to the lack of trust in government, and I think it’s important to be transparent so that people can react accordingly.”

A group of volunteers, “Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education,” began compiling information sent to them by parents and teachers when they found the government was not making these details public.

Group moderator Stacey Rudderham, who is also a parent of school-aged children, says only verified information, such as a letter or email from an official school or Nova Scotia public health source , are used.

“We are the only place where they can get information on existing school cases,” says Rudderham.

Rudderham says she hears many parents and staff talking about schools affected by exposures and potential cases of COVID-19.

She also hears from people who had no idea at all that there was a case in their school.

“We hear from them that they weren’t informed and that they discovered the case from our list, on social media,” Rudderham said.

The Nova Scotia Department of Education would not give CTV News a list of affected schools in the province today.

According to the ministry, principals are expected to inform the wider school community of any potential exposure.

The province’s chief medical officer of health said there was no evidence the virus was spreading in schools and that schools continued to be safe.

Dr Robert Strang says anyone in a school who may have been exposed to a case is informed and parents should trust public health.

“If their child may have been exposed, they will be notified,” Strang said. “And continue to follow basic precautions.”

Strang says public health may soon start releasing some data related to the school.

“We plan to start reporting the total as part of our school-specific weekly epidemiological summaries. “

In a message sent to teachers on Friday evening and obtained by CTV, the regional executive director of the Halifax Regional Center for Education, Elwin LeRoux, sought to address the concerns “of a staff member who questioned yesterday about a case of COVID-19 linked to their school, ”and“ why it took so long for staff to be notified when information was shared on social media. “

In the post, LeRoux says public health’s approach to school-related COVID cases is “different from last year.”

“In the age of social media, information is being shared at the speed of light,” he writes, “This process is not that quick, but we communicate as soon as public health gives direction at the end of their investigation. “

This is an issue that the leader of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union says he is raising with the province.

Paul Wozney says he has also heard of cases where teachers have not been made aware of a case related to their school.

Nova Scotia was listing potential exposures in schools no later than the last school year.

Wozney says the province must start over.

“Only Alberta, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia nationally do not provide this data to parents, students and staff.

Rudderham says it is the information that is important to the whole community.

“If (the students are) in schools and there are cases there, they also play sports, they are in clubs, they are in church, the daycares talk to us too,” says Rudderham. . “It’s not just in schools, if it’s in schools.”

“It’s very telling that this is coming from the parents and not from the government,” says Snow. She would like the province to release accurate information to keep rumors and misinformation at bay – and help parents like her make the decision necessary to keep their children safe.

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