The Prince Edward Island Home and School Federation (PEIHSF) exists to promote the total well-being of children and the highest standards of education for each child in the province.
Children are less likely to become seriously ill or die from COVID-19, but they can still require hospitalization and develop Long-COVID symptoms or permanent disabilities from infection. In addition, we must recognize the need to protect the most vulnerable in the community. Students may themselves be, be living with, or be in contact with such persons (immunocompromised). Such students may not wish to attend school, have heightened anxiety about attending school, or may not be permitted to attend school, unless we ensure risks of COVID-19 are mitigated. Furthermore, we must remember that some school-age children are not yet eligible and others have been the last age group to be deemed eligible for vaccination, and as such, vaccinations in these populations is low relative to the population as a whole.
The Board of the PEIHSF appreciated the opportunity to review the COVID-19 Back-to-School Public Health Guidance 2021-2022.
After reviewing the document and meeting as a Provincial Board, it was agreed that the document was ambiguous and relied on discretionary language rather than stating clear masking and vaccination expectations and minimum requirements for staff, students, visitors and guests. This has the potential to cause confusion and inequities across the province. Therefore we make the following recommendation to better enable schools to protect our students, staff, and their families from Covid-19.
We ask that the masking requirements of staff, students, visitors and volunteers from the previous school year be continued until the vaccination rate in all eligible age groups is 80% (fully vaccinated).
The PEIHSF Board is aware of governments, businesses, and educational institutions requiring mandatory vaccines. Specifically, the Back to School Plan in our neighbouring province of New Brunswick mandates vaccines for teachers and school staff, as well as mandatory masking for teachers, staff and students. Unvaccinated teachers and staff in this jurisdiction will be subject to regular testing. In light of these differences between PEI’s Back to School Plan and others in Atlantic Canada, we would like to open the discussion regarding mandatory vaccination for school personnel to protect staff, students, and their families across PEI.
“At the end of the day, it is about protecting our students and their families through the next stages of the pandemic. Our recommendation is intended to ensure another safe school year with as much normalcy as possible for Islanders of all ages. Let’s build on the lessons and successes from the last school year and continue to proceed with caution, patience and kindness.”
Heather Mullen, President PEIHSF