English school district 'anxiously awaiting' COVID-19 plans for beyond Friday

·2 min read
Tony Stack, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, says there have been no discussions between the district and public health officials yet about school plans beyond Friday. (Sherry Vivan/CBC - image credit)
Tony Stack, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, says there have been no discussions between the district and public health officials yet about school plans beyond Friday. (Sherry Vivan/CBC - image credit)

The CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District says he doesn't know where and how learning will occur beyond Friday, as the organization is waiting for direction from public health officials as to what to do.

Tony Stack said Thursday morning the district hopes to get guidance from the Department of Health soon.

"Just like everybody else in the province, we're anxiously awaiting what are the next steps," he said.

Friday marks two weeks since the province moved into Alert Level 5, shifting all schools that had not already done so into virtual classrooms. There have been no conversations thus far between the district and public health as to what happens after Friday's deadline, Stack said. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday an update on Alert Level 5 restrictions, including those on education, will be announced Friday. The lifting any restrictions will depend on epidemiology, she said, and life with more contagious virus variants circulating will necessitate limited person-to-person interactions.

How that would change classrooms and other school settings is unknown, said Stack.

"We're waiting to have an interaction with public health, to see where they are on that. Obviously they're looking at the science and determining what is required. And whatever's required we will put in place," Stack told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Stack said the district and teachers are prepared to continue virtual learning, and so far the transition has gone very well.

Mount Pearl Senior High has had 145 confirmed cases in the recent outbreak. Staff and students have been unfairly targeted online, says Stack.
Mount Pearl Senior High has had 145 confirmed cases in the recent outbreak. Staff and students have been unfairly targeted online, says Stack.

Adult attacks

But while students and teachers have moved with few glitches into virtual learning, Stack said, there has been one disappointing aspect to the online world: with schools in the St. John's area becoming focal points during the latest COVID-19 outbreak, social media harassment has increased.

"There was a lot of incidents where … students were attacked in that forum. Not necessarily by younger people. In a lot of cases these were adults, and that's really disconcerting."

In the wake of Eastern Health releasing a list of 22 schools accounting for 185 positive cases — including Mount Pearl Senior High, which has seen 145 cases among students and staff — Stack is asking for compassion and kindness.

"I would encourage everyone to recognize the trauma that these students, staff and families have suffered or are suffering," he said.

While the Mount Pearl Senior cases were already in the public sphere, people in that school's community are trying to bounce back after a wave of negative reaction, he said.

"The last thing they need to do is be harassed and bullied and vilified."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador