FAQ – Return to School

It is important to note that the New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation (NBTF) Co-Presidents and Executive Directors of the three organizations met with Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, on Thursday, July 9. 

Gerald Richard, Deputy Minister of Health, George Daley and Marcel Lavoie, Deputy Ministers of Education and Early Childhood Development, and Eric Levesque, Director of Public Health were also in attendance. At that meeting, Dr. Russell confirmed that the Return to School plan was developed in concert with her staff and that her Office (OCMOH) supports the plan. Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) staff have also been working with WorkSafe NB beginning in the early stages of plan development to ensure that the plan is compliant with WorkSafe legislation.

WORK DAYS

If a teacher feels well, fit and able to perform their duties but, upon completing the COVID-19 screening questionnaire, determines that they have two or more symptoms among those listed in the questionnaire, they shall: 

  1. Discuss with their school administrator the need to stay home and indicate that they are experiencing symptoms. 
  2. If the employer accepts to reassign the teacher so they can work from home, the teacher must stay home and do the requested work (job-related duties).  
  3. If the teacher is directed to take sick leave or unpaid leave, they shall remain at home and contact the NBTF for assistance. In some cases, the NBTF may suggest taking further action up to, and including, filing a grievance.
  4. If, while the matter is being reviewed, the teacher has exhausted their paid sick leave days, they can borrow, upon request, up to 15 additional days of sick leave as per Article 31.04 of the Collective Agreement. 
  5. Call 811 and follow their instructions.

Yes, preparation time is a negotiated benefit included in the Collective Agreement (Art. 19).

EECD will be honouring its commitment to the Collective Agreement in terms of preparation time.

Teachers are entitled to request, as per Article 22 (A) 02 of the Collective Agreement, a 60 minute duty-free lunch at any time during the school year. If this request is made during the school year, school administrators will need time in order to make the necessary adjustments to schedules. It is important to note that preparation time can be added before or after a lunch break in order to provide the 60 minute duty-free lunch.

Art. 22 (A) 01 states that non-teaching duties shall be kept to a minimum and evenly distributed among staff. Operational requirements of the school during the pandemic may require additional supervision from teaching staff. The Collective Agreement does not provide a maximum amount of time for supervision.

Hours of instruction shall be in accordance with Article 18 of the Collective Agreement.

Yes, if drop off and pick up times fall outside of the hours of instruction and do not interfere with scheduled supervision. It is important to remember that teachers are required to be present 20 minutes prior to the opening of classes in the morning, and up to 30 minutes after the departure of the last school bus at the end of the day.

No, there is no obligation for the employer to reduce the combined class size number outlined in the Article 20.07 of the collective agreement.

When a teacher has to be absent from their classroom for whatever reason, they should follow what has been outlined in their school’s operational plan.

Article 25(1)f of Regulations 97-150 of the Education Act requires teachers to be present at school 20 minutes prior to the beginning of instruction time.

Teachers may be required to be in school prior to the 20 minutes before the commencement of instruction time if they are assigned to do non-teaching duties as per Article 22 of the Collective Agreement. All non-teaching duties assigned to teachers, regardless of when, are to be considered when calculating the total amount.

School administrators are responsible to determine the level of supervision required to maintain the health and safety of their building. However, one of the key elements of Article 22 (A) 01 of the Collective Agreement is that supervision must be kept to a minimum. Requiring all teachers to arrive earlier than 20 minutes prior to the commencement of instruction time to supervise does not meet this threshold.

Furthermore, it is not reasonable for ALL teachers to be responsible for students arriving prior to the 20 minutes, during breaks and lunch.

Questions regarding non-teaching duties can be discussed with NBTF staff.

TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

No, the Return to School Plan 2020 indicates that  “A non-immunocompromised student whose family has decided not to send him or her to school for any reason or because of the pandemic will be required to complete an Annual Home-Schooling Request Form.”

No, teachers are under no obligation to video record themselves to share with students or parents.

There is no change in the obligation of teachers with regards to students who are absent from school due to illness (it is the same expectation as in previous years).

Any questions related to this topic should be redirected to district staff as teachers are not responsible for providing IT support.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) AND SAFETY MEASURES

In accordance with the Return to School Plan: “Passive screening is required for school personnel, students and others permitted in the school building prior to entry. Signage is required to be clearly visible at the entrances. Adults and students will not be required to have their temperature taken prior to entry but should instead check their temperature prior to leaving for school and practice self-monitoring.

Parents are responsible for reviewing the screening questions with their children prior to leaving for school and only sending their child to school when they are well and have met the criteria outlined in the survey. See WorkSafe NB Website for ‘Screening for COVID-19 Poster.’

The Department has worked with Public Health to develop guidance for public schools. The recommendation regarding physical distancing of one (1) metre was made based on World Health Organization (WHO) standards. It allows for appropriate distancing but also considers the reality of space availability in a school. Physical distancing is one element of the school system’s response to COVID-19, it cannot be scrutinized in isolation. But rather, it works in conjunction with mask use, hand washing and other measures. This has been sanctioned by Public Health.

If students cannot maintain physical distance outside their class grouping, they must wear masks in common areas, in addition to hand washing. Each student should bring a mask for use in school.

As indicated in the Return to School document, there are different strategies in place for different grades in order to keep the system aligned with best practice. Younger children will likely not physically distance effectively and will therefore be kept in small groups. Several of our high schools have student populations in excess of a thousand students and high school students must be allowed to change classes subject to individual schedules and subjects.  As such, the plan for high school is alternate attendance combined with online learning. Middle school students are capable of physical distancing and good personal hygiene habits. The middle school strategy is to allow larger classes but keep the class together as a unit and to move teachers from class to class instead of moving students.  Each of these strategies fit their respective age groups and meet the guidelines of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and WorkSafe NB.

Teachers will be protected based on the health and safety measures put in place by the Department, as approved by Public Health. Students and staff will be staying home if they are unwell, physical distancing, practicing increased hand washing and also specific cleaning routines will be put in place. The students with which they are working will be a common grouping.

Affirmation Form of Vulnerability

Right to Refuse Form

Yes, schools must ensure they have all the necessary supplies such as hot/cold potable running water, liquid soap, paper towel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer refills, cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

Cleaning is the responsibility of the custodians (CUPE 1253), and not the teachers. However, teachers will be responsible to clean their own equipment (desk, computer, chair, etc.)

Washrooms must be equipped with hot and cold running water under pressure, liquid soap, paper towel, toilet paper, and garbage containers. Handwash signs must be posted. Washrooms should be cleaned frequently by the custodians (at least three times a day). It is recommended that schools limit the number of students accessing the washrooms at one time.

Students with complex behaviours, medical plans or individuals experiencing a health or safety emergency will require staff to be in close physical proximity. The need for personal protective equipment will be determined within pre-existing individual plans and/or existing school procedures. Plans should address the health and physical safety of both staff and students. There is no additional equipment required due to the pandemic alone.

Teachers requiring accommodation will be identified prior to the start of school and accommodation will be developed to meet the individual need. The process of identifying employees in need of accommodation is already underway. 

All teachers will be responsible for providing their own community masks, however, a face shield will be provided by the employer. Teacher will be asked if they require a desks shield, which will also to be provided by the employer.

There are actions you can take to stay healthy and protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19. Please refer to the Protect yourself and others webpage for information.

According to the Return to School Plan, visiting teachers and other school personnel who travel between schools and have contact with students will maintain a physical distance of two metres in the classroom and in common areas. Community masks will be used if the two metre physical distancing is not possible. If school personnel chooses to wear a face shield, a community mask must also be worn. They must also maintain a log of their movements. Districts will try to limit the number of schools that these employees visit.

A teacher may request that students wear their community masks in excess of the requirements outlined in the Appendix A of the Return to School : Direction for School Districts and Schools, Sept. 2020. However, it cannot be made mandatory.

All issues of accommodations will be dealt with on an individual basis involving the member, the employer (Districts) and the NBTF.

Unless for medical reasons, if a student refuses to wear a mask, it should be reported immediately to the school administration as it contravenes the direction provided by Public Health.

SICK LEAVES AND OTHER LEAVES

All indications are that there will be a great demand for supply teachers in the fall. It is the employer’s responsibility to replace absent teachers and ensure that supply teachers are available.

The NBTF does not have the authority to restrict the personal travel of staff. At this time, Public Health is requesting that all New Brunswickers complete a 14-day self-isolation period following travel to any destination outside of the Atlantic Provinces and the small Quebec bubble. This could therefore result in a leave without pay for that period.

Please refer to Health Canada Travel Advisory: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

Teachers will be compensated if their classroom is self isolated as “teaching and learning must not stop if students are sent home because of an outbreak.”

Yes, the Collective Agreement is still in effect and all benefits are still available, subject to supply teachers being available.

HEALTH AND VULNERABLE POPULATION

Pregnancy has not been identified as an at-risk condition for COVID-19, therefore they are expected to report to work. If you have medical concerns, please consult your physician and advise your school district.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you have the right to refuse work where you have reasonable grounds for believing that an action is likely to endanger your health or safety, or the health or safety of any other employee. 

Please review the Right to Refuse Key Steps developed by WorkSafeNB in the event you may be faced with this situation. The same principles apply for managing workplace health and safety and work refusals during a pandemic as they do during normal conditions.

Right to Refuse Form

Please refer to the Health Canada Website for details on vulnerable populations and COVID-19.

COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

All new vacancies will result in an additional B contract being awarded in the district. These contracts will not necessarily be given to new hires.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, in consultation with Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, Worksafe NB, and Department of Health, has developed a guidance document on ventilation in schools. Schools can consult with their school district for guidance.

In September, teachers will return to normal working hours. Therefore, anything work related done outside of the normal hours of instruction are at the discretion of teachers. However, teachers are required to attend staff meetings which deal with administrative issues such as scheduling, school policies, school discipline, promotion, or other issues related to the general operation of the school. A calendar of the scheduled meetings should normally be distributed to teachers at the beginning of the school year. Activities involving parent-teacher interviews fall within the general description of Article 18.02, which means there is an obligation for teachers to attend such meetings if their duration and frequency are reasonable. 

The NBTF also agrees that a meet-the-teacher event at the beginning of a school year also requires teachers to be present.   

The upcoming school year will certainly be exceptional and will require increased flexibility and cooperation from all teachers and staff.

GradesGroup size per classroom as per EECD’s return to school plan
K-2Reduced grouping size, as close to 15 students, wherever possible 
3-5Reduced grouping size, as close to 22 students, wherever possible
6-8Regular class size
9-12Attendance on a rotational basis (minimum every other day) except where schools can accommodate physical distancing of one metre.
  • These class sizes are not the regular class size under the Collective Agreement. The number of students have been reduced because of COVID19 and are reflected in the EECD return to school plan for the 2020-2021 school year. 
  • In discussions with EECD, they have indicated that “wherever possible” means a possible increase of two above the group size limit.
SUPPLY TEACHERS

Supply teachers will have access to the operational plan of any school in which they are scheduled to teach as these plans are public information and will be placed on the schools’ websites.

If this FAQ does not answer your question, please do not hesitate to contact the NBTF by email at nbtf-fenb@nbtffenb.ca