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Teachers welcome return to class, confused by shutdown

Rob Hammond, President of the Near North Elementary Teachers Union, says local elementary teachers are looking forward to returning to the classroom next week, but still have some questions. 

“I don’t think it was a surprise to many of our teachers that we’re going back. What is a surprise is that the province is still in lockdown. We don’t understand that part of it,” Hammond said. 

The provincial government announced Thursday that the regional shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 has been extended by another two weeks for northern parts of the province. 

In-person learning, however, is permitted despite the shutdown

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Hammond says the government’s reason behind allowing northern schools to return in-class is due to a lack of internet access for asynchronous learning. 

“It’s really kind of a cop-out solution,” Hammond commented. “If the province had opened up the northern areas [from the shutdown], there wouldn’t be any pushback at all. We’re just bewildered as to why the government would keep the rest of the province in lockdown and yet allow schools to open in the northern region.”

Students and teachers have had to participate in online learning this week as part of the provincial shutdown.

Despite the unconventional school year, Hammond says Near North elementary teachers have adjusted “surprisingly well” to the new protocols so far this year. 

“Our members are very resilient. They’re doing exceptionally well and the kids are getting a quality education,” he noted.

Even though the teachers have adapted, Hammond thinks there’s still work to be done at the provincial level. 

“We’d just like to see the education minister actually have a plan for the province. They have not addressed the issues of class sizes. The class sizes need to be smaller,” he said. 

With students returning to class next week, Nipissing-Parry Sound Student Transportation Services has stated that all transportation will return to normal beginning January 11.

The transportation service is also advising students and parents of health protocols for riders during the colder months.

“Public health does not recommend ‘neck gaiters’, scarves, or balaclavas as an equivalent to, or substitute for a face covering. Most of these outerwear accessories are made up of single-

layer, loose, coarsely woven, or knitted materials and, are less effective at filtering respiratory droplets compared to a cloth face covering with two or more layers. These clothing items also do not cover the nose and mouth areas well enough to be effective,” stated executive director, Chuck Seguin.

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