Nova Scotia parents expect better transparency from their elected officials
By: Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education
The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE) feels the Nova Scotia Government should be treating announcements of in-school Covid cases the same as other exposure notifications. To help keep people informed the group has been tracking in-school cases (based on information provided by parents with confirmed notices).
After starting this list the group was flooded with new membership – about 2,800 new members with most joining in the last 5 days. Bringing its total membership to over 23,000. When asked, a massive majority of new members stated they joined for access to this list of in-school cases.
Policy on information around these cases seems to vary from school to school – with some informing teachers of a case in their workplace and others not. It appears some are informing only close contacts while others are informing the entire school community. The NSPFPE list relies on reports from parents – so there could be more schools that are not yet on the list. Cases seem to be being treated as isolated incidents that are not of public concern, and yet some schools have reported multiple cases and one case in a building with hundreds of people is not “isolated”. The definition of close contact has also not been made clear.
Families deserve to know about ALL cases in their school – and the public deserves to know the reality of cases in schools. Teachers definitely deserve to know about exposures at their workplace (a recent HRCE statement implied that this group can inform teachers faster because social media is “lightning fast”. Not only does the HRCE have access to social media itself, but the group is using school emails to verify cases before posting them – so the HRCE is aware of cases long before NSPFPE). Dr. Strang commented recently that they were looking into ways to share this information – it was done last year and so the way seems obvious and not out of reach.
What happens with contractors brought into schools… such as school photographers? How would they know if they were exposed before going to other schools or locations? And what about substitutes who travel from school to school? Or support staff with multi-school locations (guidance counsellors, speech therapists, etc). These individuals deserve to know if they were in an exposure location so they can take precautions and protect others.
And the community also deserves this – schools are part of our communities. We reached out to our members and were flooded with their reasons. Here are just a few:
“As someone who runs recreational programs for kids and teens I think it is essential that I know what the cases are like in schools. It is important for us to be aware of where things are happening, how things are spreading so that we can be better “informed” as to what is happening in communities and to prepare for possible closures and assess risks.” – Laura Caswell.
“Transparency is best. Example: If we have a play date lined up with friends and discover that there is a case at a school that one family may somehow be connected to, then we have the choice to postpone, etc.” – Katherine Ferguson
“At first, people didn’t realize there were covid cases in schools. Because of this people felt a little too comfortable. I feel like being made aware of school cases is a reminder that we all need to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk. People need to remember that while we are close to the goal of 75% being vaccinated, 100% of kids under 12 are not vaccinated. These kids are the most vulnerable right now.” – Tanya Houlihan
“I have an 11-year-old son with a neuromuscular disorder who is also somewhat immunocompromised. Having information about cases in schools is a critical piece of information for us to have in order to make the best possible decisions about whether we keep him in class, move him to the resource room full-time as a precaution, or keep him home entirely. Will we feel differently once he is fully vaccinated? You bet. But for now, knowing if cases are starting to pop up around us is crucial.” – Lorrie Power
“If people want the information they will find it but there is no guarantee that what is found is correct and since there is no official data source to refer to that leaves a huge opening for misinformation. If they want to fight misinformation they have to make sure the correct information is out there and easily obtained.” – Elizabeth Guitard
“If we are going to keep our under 12 year-olds in school, we need to be able to assess their risk of exposure. Transparency and open communication build trust, hiding outbreaks from the public erodes that trust.” – Barbara M. Campbell
“Knowing which schools are affected and where they are informs choices about activities and extracurriculars with my children, especially until the vaccination requirement is in effect the safety of places where kids from many schools may gather.” – Allison Carpenter
“I would like us to be confident the government is doing enough for our smallest residents and they need to be forthcoming in order to give us that confidence.” – Pooneh Fooladi
“Previously my (asthmatic) son was able to maintain his much-needed structured activities outside of school because I had trust in the transparency and could see where cases in the school community were. There is much more anxiety/fear/doubt now as parents are being left in the dark.” – Kathleen Manson
The above is just a tiny portion of the responses given by members of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. Many of whom joined this group specifically for access to this information.
This information is not of a private nature. It is being collected by our government and is of a public health nature. And parents clearly want it made public. The fact that a private group of volunteers is doing a better job than our own government at keeping parents and teachers informed about this is unacceptable. Our new government has spoken often about transparency. The time for that is NOW. Our kids deserve nothing less.