ESSP/ECE President's Message

Ministry of Education – In-person Learning for Students with Special Needs

The Ministry of Education has issued a memo giving direction to school boards on a variety of issues related to In-person learning for students with special education needs. The summary below outlines the important points relevant to education workers and teachers who are directly involved in the in-person classrooms. Memo Attached here: Vaccination Priority All education staff, education workers and teachers, who work directly with special education students should be issued a letter establishing their eligibility for vaccination. Due to the current shortage of vaccines in some communities, many members will experience a delay in being vaccinated but they remain a priority when appointments become available. In-Person Learning: Students and Staff The memo defines that in-person learning should only be available for students who cannot be accommodated remotely. This was communicated in a similar manner for the January shutdown, however, this memo outlines that the special education staff who work directly with students will have input into which students meet these criteria. In many boards, this will result in a significant change to the in-person program as compared to what occurred in January. The same special education staff should provide input to develop strategies and plans to support students who face difficulty in following the masking and distance protocols in order to maximize the safety of all students and staff. Clear direction is given as to which staff are required to work in schools. The special staff on-site should be limited to those needed to support the students who will be in attendance. Other staff, not working directly with students, will be on-site as needed to support the remote learning program and maintain the worksite. There is no reduction in staffing funding so other staff will work remotely. The memo requires daily screening for all in-person students, which is an enhancement for most elementary students. The asymptomatic testing program will continue which should result in more focused testing due to the fact that most students are learning remotely. Classrooms/Workspace/PPE Given the fact that most students will not be in school, every effort should be made to ensure a safe environment for in-person programs. Depending on the school and the room(s) being used, extra filters may be available from other areas of the school. Where appropriate, other areas in the school should be used to allow for greater distancing. The memo also directs school boards to provide all staff working directly with students during this shutdown period with ASTM level 2 masks and eye protection along with the standard PPE. This is an enhancement over the ASTM level 1 masks which have been mandated to date. Worker Health and Safety While the shutdown of schools protects most school staff, in-person learning, if not implemented correctly, puts others at risk. Any member who believes themselves to be unsafe should seek the advice of their local Bargaining Unit President. In some cases, follow-up with the Board can address these concerns, however, if that does not occur, members are reminded that they have the right to refuse unsafe work or to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. Consider the following: • Have you been provided with the appropriate PPE for your situation? • Is your workspace properly ventilated and cleaned? • Is there a process to ensure your safety with students who are unable to follow safety protocols? If you have questions please contact me directly. In Solidarity, Cheryl

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