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Education assistants share fears about return to class plan

Last Updated Aug 18, 2020 at 3:57 pm PDT

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Summary

A number of education assistants have worries about the lack of clarity on BC's return to class plan

Some EA's are even going so far as to say they're terrified, especially given what they say is a lack of information

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As a special education assistant in B.C, Ashley is watching the fast-approaching back-to-school date with anxiety and concern.

The New Westminster EA works with kids with special needs and she says she’s been little information about how her school will protect both students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only that, her child has special needs and goes to school in a different district.

She says among her EA social media groups, she is one of many who are terrified to go back to work because they still don’t know what a COVID-19 back-to-school plan will look like in their districts.

“We’re kind of panicking. It’s not a fun place to be because we have millions of questions,” she said.

One newly graduated Richmond EA, speaking anonymously to NEWS 1130, says there’s a real lack of clarity, and she has concerns because of her own health issues.

“I’m really nervous about going back to work,” she says. “I’m really nervous. I don’t understand what they’re going to do. The kids are supposed to go back to school and it seems like everyone’s going. But I know from my experience, a lot of parents are a lot of worried. A lot of EAs are terrified. A lot of EAs have families. We’re worried about how this is going to affect us. I have lung issues, so I’m terrified to go back to work, but I know I have no other options. I’ve already used up my CERB and everything. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”

 

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he hasn’t decided whether his children will return to school in September. . Trudeau says there are “active discussions” in his household over whether his children will be returning to school in the fall. The prime minister says he, like many parents, is looking for answers about what safety measures will be in place before making a final decision. . Many parents, teachers, and teaching staff say they are worried about the return-to-school. The province says it will release plans Aug. 26, however some, including teaching assistants, say this leave them little time to create a plan, decide if they will return to school, or make alternative arrangements. . Full story online. Link in bio. For all your COVID-19 news, head to www.citynews1130.com/covid19 #NEWS1130 #COVID19 #COVID_19 #coronavirus #pandemic #JustinTrudeau #Trudeau #backtoschool #school #kids #children

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Ashley says she is unsure how schools can ensure physically distance with children who need specialized, sometimes close, hands on care.

“It’s extremely difficult when you have the extremely high needs children,” she says. “The children who need hand over hand care, children who need assistance toileting, children who have very low growth in fine motor skills, children who need full hands on support — physical distancing is impossible.”

One issue is EAs often work with kids in different schools, meaning they may have to mingle with several cohorts of kids. Ashley says she is fortunate to have the seniority to be in one school, but knows many who are just starting their careers will have to visit multiple locations.

Ashley says she recognizes the importance of support staff such as teachers on call to cover for sick days or other times the regular teacher can’t be in school.

The province is expected to release its plan for school districts on Aug. 26, but EAs worry this is not enough time for them to prepare or make alternative job plans. Ashley says would like to know if there will be professional development days to teach all staff the new rules and get questions answered.

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In a statement, the education ministry tells NEWS 1130 in most cases teachers on call, as well as specialist staff, will not be in a designated learning group, so they will need to maintain physical distance from students and other staff as much as much as possible.

“However, if a [teacher on call] is assigned to a school for an extended period of time, they could become a part of a learning group and won’t need to physically distance,” the statement reads.

Each school district will plan for their local needs as well as their school populations, or space available in their buildings. The Ministry’s health and safety guidelines will outline some guidance for school districts and independent schools that specifically address safety measures for itinerant staff and itinerant specialists.

“Cohort composition can be changed at the start of a new quarter, semester or term in the school year. Outside of these, composition should be changed as minimally as possible. Some school districts have already created innovative solutions to minimize the number of staff who interact with learning groups. For instance, the Vancouver School District is offering [teachers on call]s the option to choose a school quadrant, so they will only be on call for a select group of schools.”

– With files from Marcella Bernardo.