Tag Archives: Teachers

How parts of Canada are going about vaccinating teachers against COVID-19

This weekend, teachers and school staff in Ontario’s Niagara region are getting their first chance at a COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the recommendation of the area’s vaccination co-ordination task force. 

The group had previously flagged education workers as a priority and now the timing just made sense, said task force chair Dr. David Dec, a family physician based in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Many educators are under the age of 55 and cannot access mass clinics still aimed at older populations, nor can they receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine rolling out in pharmacies and some doctors’ offices. But now prioritized, Niagara-area teachers off for the April break next week can easily attend daytime vaccination clinics, Dec said.

As provinces and territories move into the next phase of their coronavirus vaccination campaigns, educators and school staff are starting to join the priority groups becoming eligible for shots. While different approaches are being used thus far, some emerging trends may offer lessons for bringing this immunization drive to all education workers.

Our thinking has thus far been to vaccinate the most at-risk populations first, Dec said, starting with long-term care and nursing homes, because “we knew that if you’re in that congregate setting, and if you bring that virus into that setting, then it can transmit like wildfire.”

Yet, we don’t seem to appreciate that classrooms are also congregate settings, he said. “They’re a bunch of people bunched-in close together.” 

A push to vaccinate school staff in Ontario’s Niagara Region now makes sense, since being off for April break next week makes it easier to attend daytime vaccination clinics, says Dr. David Dec, chair of the region’s vaccination co-ordination task force. (Regional Municipality of Niagara)

This push to prioritize educators is a “proactive approach,” according to Dec. “Everybody wants the schools to stay open, so if this is a small part of doing that, then I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Here is a look at how some jurisdictions are approaching the challenge.

B.C. starts in Surrey 

Annie Ohana recalls feeling “absolute elation” upon learning at her union’s annual general meeting in March that school staffers in Surrey, B.C., would be prioritized next in the vaccine rollout, with officials citing how hard the Fraser Health region has been hit by COVID-19.

“I remember lining up for the shot on that Sunday and all of us smiling ear-to-ear — behind our masks, of course — and very much [feeling] just relief,” Ohana said of getting her first dose two weeks ago.

Teacher Annie Ohana says she was elated when she learned teachers and school staff in Surrey, B.C., were being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine. But she says she’s concerned about colleagues in other regions that haven’t had a similar rollout. (Mike Zimmer/CBC, Submitted by Annie Ohana)


Yet the L.A. Matheson Secondary School teacher recognizes that it’s only a first step, since students, families and other B.C. education colleagues are still waiting for their chance.

“I got an exposure notice Sunday [for] my classroom. About half my class was missing yesterday. It’s good to feel that, ‘OK well, at least I had the first dose and so hopefully that can help me.’ But the reality is my kids don’t and many of their family members don’t yet,” Ohana said.  

The campaign hasn’t moved as quickly as she’d anticipated out to educators in other B.C. regions, who haven’t yet been prioritized. The province’s teachers continue to push for safety measures like mask mandates and improved ventilation as well, she said.

“The more protected we are, the more we can keep the schools open.”

WATCH | Amid a third wave, educators are beginning to get priority for COVID-19 vaccines: 

Most Ontario schools are staying open during an emergency stay-at-home order and education workers in COVID-19 hot zones will be prioritized for vaccinations, something already being done in Quebec and British Columbia. 1:45

New Brunswick blitz

Last month, New Brunswick high schools were also put on the priority list. Beginning March 22, the province launched a campaign offering vaccinations to all in-school secondary staffers, which took just over a week. It came ahead of a return to full-time in-person learning for high schoolers that was set for Monday, but later cancelled amid a rise in cases.

“In the region where the vaccination clinics were happening, they closed the school down completely [for the day]. All of the school staff had the opportunity to go to the vaccination clinic, get the vaccines done,” said Rick Cuming, president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association and co-president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation.

The clinics were very well attended, according to Cuming, who is based in Fredericton. However, one major lesson that emerged, he said, was the need to account for the fact that some people will inevitably experience mild-to-moderate vaccination side-effects such as fever, fatigue and muscle pain — also among the symptoms listed for COVID-19 screening at schools. This was something Ohana, the teacher in Surrey, also noted.

“We have a supply teacher shortage … we certainly feel that effect here in the best of times, and then under this COVID situation, anybody that’s showing symptoms can’t show up into the school,” Cuming said.

“Our schools certainly noticed that in the days that followed the vaccine clinics.”

One lesson that came out of New Brunswick’s vaccination blitz for high school staffers was to be aware that some will experience post-vaccination symptoms such as fever, fatigue and muscle pain — which are also among the symptoms listed for COVID-19 screening at schools, says Rick Cuming, co-president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Similar to Ohana, Cuming noted that the education workers not yet vaccinated — New Brunswick’s elementary and middle school teachers, administration and support staffers in those schools, as well as bus drivers and supply teachers — are anxiously awaiting their chance to get a shot.

Quebec, Ontario target hot spots

Following Niagara Region’s announcement this week about accelerating education sector vaccinations, the Quebec and Ontario governments also took a step in that direction, but primarily focusing on hot spot regions. 

In late March, a vaccination blitz targeting two Montreal neighbourhoods seeing rapid spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. expanded to include teachers. On Wednesday, Quebec announced plans to start vaccinating Montreal’s essential workers — including school and daycare staff — as of this weekend.

Educators in Montreal are now being considered essential workers and prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine, but that ‘should have been the case a while ago,’ says teacher Andrew Adams. School and daycare staffers in the city could book their appointments as of Friday. (CBC)

“I’m ecstatic to hear that teachers are finally being considered essential workers. That should have been the case a while ago,” said Andrew Adams, who teaches Grade 7 and 8 English at Montreal’s LaurenHill Academy.

The same day, as Ontario declared a third state of emergency and a new stay-at-home order, it also announced it was opening vaccination access to special education workers provincewide along with school staff in at-risk Toronto and Peel region neighbourhoods, starting next week during the April break. Officials in both Quebec and Ontario said the plan is to scale up vaccination in other regions of concern as soon as supply allows in the coming weeks. 

Though the Ontario government’s announcement means some educators will soon get their first injections, union leader Harvey Bischof is looking for a more robust rollout beyond Toronto and Peel, which is located west of the city. Those two public health regions closed schools and shifted to remote learning this week.

“If it doesn’t reach face-to-face educators in [other provincial] hot spots where there are significant reasons for concern … then it’s potentially a case of too little, too late,” said Bischof, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, from Brantford, Ont.

Halton, the region northwest of Niagara, announced Friday it is also moving ahead to prioritize school-related workers and child-care staff among the essential workers able to get a COVID-19 vaccine as of April 16.

A more robust vaccination rollout must quickly reach school staff in the many hot spot regions of Ontario, says Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Bischof said he also wants to see schools in high-risk regions remain in remote learning until three weeks after educators can receive a shot, so the vaccine has time to take effect.

He’s heartened to see some regions and local public health units “striking out on their own” beyond decisions being made at the provincial level, like Niagara’s move to vaccinate all school staffers and Peel and Toronto shuttering in-person learning this week.

“We’ve had quite a few school boards across the province now call for the priority vaccination of educators. We’ve seen some medical officers of health and public health units take really important steps,” he said. 

Back in B.C., high school teacher Ohana recognizes the pandemic is complex, “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” but she wants politicians and decision-makers to be more willing to pivot their vaccination rollout strategy. 

“It was great to see [officials] kind of re-tinker things and say, ‘OK, it’s not just about age. We need to consider positions and jobs.'”

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Carrot or stick? U.S. governors try to get teachers back into schools

California is dangling a multibillion dollar carrot in an effort to lure its teachers back into the classroom, while Oregon’s governor on Friday said all K-12 public schools will soon be required to provide in-person leaning; marking the latest efforts by U.S. states to get schools back to normal amid the pandemic.  

Gov. Kate Brown said she is issuing an executive order that all such schools must provide universal access to in-person learning by the month’s end for students up to Grade 5 and by mid-April for older students.

The state’s coronavirus case numbers have fallen sharply in recent weeks and Oregon put teachers ahead of older residents in the line for the COVID-19 vaccine — a decision that angered many people 65 and up. As teachers get vaccinated, Brown has been under tremendous pressure from parents and local elected officials in many counties to reopen schools.

Many teachers’ unions nationally have balked at a return to in-person learning, putting them at odds with Democratic governors like Brown in some states.

In neighbouring Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee has implored educators to return to the classroom, but most students there are in online classes and the Seattle teachers’ union is defying a district plan to return special education students to schools.

In Chicago, the teachers’ union agreed last month to return to class with expanded access to vaccinations and metrics that will lead to school closures again if case numbers spike.

WATCH | Why are kids staying home longer if schools aren’t high-risk settings?

Two infectious disease physicians answer viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including why many children are being kept at home if schools aren’t considered high-risk settings and why teachers haven’t been prioritized for vaccines. 7:01

‘The science is very, very clear’

Under the Oregon order, students in K-5 must have an in-person learning option by March 29. Students in Grade 6 through 12 must have one by April 19. Students who prefer to remain in online class will also have the option.

State education officials have until March 19 to revise their guidelines for in-person instruction to help districts facilitate the return, Brown said.

“The science is very, very clear: with proper safety measures in place, there is a low risk of COVID-19 transmission in school. Oregon parents can be confident about sending their children back to a classroom learning environment,” Brown said in a statement, after visiting a Portland school.

Data tallied by the state Department of Education show about 20 per cent of Oregon’s public schools are already operating with full-time on-site learning, mostly in rural areas with fewer students in eastern and central parts of the state. Another 23 per cent are offering hybrid learning and 56 per cent currently have almost all distance learning, with limited in-person instruction for students with extra needs.

Rylee Ahnen, spokesperson for the Oregon Education Association, said in a statement that teachers support returning to the classroom if it can be done safely

“We hear, understand, and share the frustration expressed by many in our communities about the uncertainty this pandemic has caused for our public education system,” he said.

California law aims to put kids in class

Meanwhile, California’s public schools can tap into $ 6.6-billion US in a plan Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday to try to pressure districts to reopen classrooms by the end of March.

However, after nearly a year of distance learning for most K-12 students during the coronavirus pandemic, parents in the country’s most populated state say they are frustrated and losing hope their children will see the inside of a classroom this year.

“Is this money going to be a motivator? I don’t know,” said Dan Lee, a father in San Francisco, a city that sued its own school district to reopen classrooms. “We throw money at them, we sue them, we shame them. They still haven’t moved.”

WATCH | What’s working in schools against COVID and what’s not?

Two infectious disease specialists answer questions about COVID-19 and what’s been done to keep schools safe, whether the protocols are working or if the restrictions have gone too far. 5:56

The law does not require school districts to resume in-person instruction. Instead, the state is dangling $ 2 billion US before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share only if they start offering in-person instruction by month’s end. The rest of the money would go toward helping students catch up.

“This is the right time to safely reopen for in-person instruction,” said Newsom, who faces a likely recall election this year, fuelled by anger over his handling of the pandemic.

The new law has attracted bipartisan support and scorn in equal measure, with the Democratic governor and lawmakers saying it marked an important step forward but was far from perfect.

Teachers from some of the biggest districts have come out against it, saying schools can’t reopen until infection rates drop and enough educators have been vaccinated.

Among them is the powerful United Teachers of Los Angeles, whose members were voting Friday to reject what they called an unsafe return for the second-largest district in the country.

This week, the union slammed the reopening plan as “a recipe for propagating structural racism” by benefiting wealthier areas with lower infection rates.

“If you condition funding on the reopening of schools, that money will only go to white and wealthier and healthier school communities,” union leader Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement.

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Phys-ed teachers get creative to keep students in shape amid COVID-19 restrictions

Just five per cent of Canadian children met basic physical activity guidelines early on in the pandemic, which is why school phys-ed programs are now looking for alternatives to get students to work up a sweat in a safe fashion.

As a result of physical distancing measures and increased remote learning, children have had more sedentary time during the pandemic, and that has had implications for schools planning physical education.

The Toronto District School Board, for instance, has asked gym teachers to cancel fall fitness training after phys-ed instructors reported that students’ physical activity levels have been alarming so far.

“They’ve noticed that kids are out of breath immediately, so the lack of physical activity that’s taken place over the last seven months is showing,” said George Kourtis, who heads the TDSB’s phys-ed program.

Even so, educators say it’s imperative that kids get a workout of some sort. But that comes with challenges in a remote learning environment.

WATCH | Schools adjust as kids lacked exercise during lockdown:

At one point in the pandemic, only five per cent of Canadian children were meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity. Now, school phys-ed programs face new challenges in keeping kids moving without most team sports because of distancing requirements. 4:10

Jennifer Bell, a Grade 11 phys-ed teacher with TDSB’s virtual school, recently demonstrated lunges to a class by doing the movements toward her laptop screen. But the students had their cameras turned off, which makes the learning more difficult.

“How do we teach sports skills while you’re standing in your living room?” Bell said. “You don’t necessarily have another opponent or a partner to play a sport with. That’s where we’re trying to get creative.”

Physically distanced football

Getting creative includes activities like juggling to practise movement skills and having students regularly type in their 15-second heart rate measurements to show that their heart rate is increasing from the participation, Bell said.

Maryam Sabir, 14, is taking Grade 9 phys-ed in person in Toronto. Maryam said physical distancing rules put a new twist on learning to play football.

Sagier Abdul takes part in a football lesson at her Toronto high school earlier this month. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

“You had to stay six feet apart,” both horizontally and vertically, Maryam said. “You can’t really communicate with other people. It becomes harder to play in the game.”

Maryam said she enjoys being physically active. When the phys-ed class ends next month, she plans to continue to get a workout by playing basketball or soccer with friends.

Importance of movement

National health guidelines recommend that children and youth (aged 5-17 years) have high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour and sufficient sleep each day, including: 

  • An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking quickly enough to still be able to talk but not sing).
  • Nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for those aged five to 13 and eight to 10 hours per night for those aged 14 to 17, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
  • No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.

Mark Tremblay, a senior scientist in obesity at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, was part of a team that surveyed more than 1,400 parents of children and youth online nationally in April, about a month after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in Canada.

Prior to the pandemic, about 15 per cent of kids met Canada’s 24-hour guidelines for physical activity, sedentary time and sleep, said Tremblay.

Kids do a workout in the park in Coronado, Calif., in March. Public health messaging about staying home is important, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside, said one obesity researcher. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

He found that movement levels had plunged as low as three per cent during the early days of the restrictions.

“Almost no Canadian kids were practising the healthy living behaviours that are associated with health, and that puts them at increased risk, of course, of physical and mental health issues going forward,” Tremblay said, which “is not what public health officials want.”

The study, published this summer in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, suggested that the pandemic wasn’t entirely to blame. But certain factors could increase the likelihood of healthy movement behaviours outside of school, including:

  • Parental encouragement and support.
  • Parents playing actively with their children.
  • Dog ownership.

The lack of physical activity was also influenced by children’s living arrangements. Kids who spent more time active outdoors were more likely to live in a house as opposed to a 40-story apartment building downtown where families may not feel safe playing outside, Tremblay said.

Tremblay said the public health messaging about staying home is important, “but it doesn’t mean stay inside.”

The scientists plan to repeat their survey on kids’ physical activity levels in early November.

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Chechen teen killed by police named as suspect in teacher’s beheading in France

A suspect shot dead by police after the beheading of a history teacher near Paris was an 18-year-old Chechen refugee unknown to intelligence services who posted a grisly claim of responsibility on social media minutes after the attack, officials said Saturday.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said authorities investigating the killing of Samuel Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday arrested nine suspects, including the teen’s grandfather, parents and 17-year-old brother.

Paty, who was 47, had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, leading to threats, police officials said. Islam prohibits images of the Prophet, asserting that they lead to idolatry. The officials could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations.

Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive had been opened.

Ricard told reporters that the Moscow-born suspect, who had been granted a 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets.

People gathered at the site of the attack on Saturday. The 18-year-old suspect was shot to death by police on Friday, about 600 metres from where the teacher died. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The teenager had approached pupils in the street and asked them to point out his victim, he said.

The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. He also confirmed that a Twitter account under the name Abdoulakh A belonged to the suspect. It posted a photo of the decapitated head minutes after the attack, along with the message, “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”

Headmaster received threatening phone calls

The post was removed swiftly by Twitter, which said it had suspended the account because it violated the company’s policy.

Ricard said the suspect had been seen at the school asking students about the teacher, and the headmaster had received several threatening phone calls.

The suspect’s half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Ricard said. He didn’t give her name, and it is not clear where she is now.

The attacker, of Chechen origin, had been living in the town of Évreux, northwest of Paris, and was not previously known to the intelligence services, Ricard told a news conference.

Flowers, a candle and a message are seen in front of the Bois d’Aulne college after the attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Saturday. The placard reads ‘I am teacher.’ The teacher who was killed had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, authorities said. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Mourners marched near the school in solidarity on Saturday, holding signs that read “I am a teacher.”

“We’ll pick ourselves up together, thanks to our spirit of solidarity,” said Laurent Brosse, mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

Parents of students laid flowers at the school gate. Some said their children were distraught.

“[My daughter] is in pieces, terrorized by the violence of such an act. How will I explain to her the unthinkable?” one father wrote on Twitter.

A police official said the suspect was shot dead about 600 metres from where Paty died. Police opened fire after he failed to respond to orders to put down his weapons and acted in a threatening manner. The official could not be named because of the ongoing investigations.

French President Emmanuel Macron went to the school on Friday night to denounce what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack.” He urged the nation to stand united against extremism.

WATCH | French president visits scene of knife attack:

President Emmanuel Macron was among a group of onlookers and police who gathered on a street outside Paris where police shot and killed a man who minutes earlier had killed a middle school teacher. 0:51

“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught … the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said.

The presidential Élysée Palace announced that there will be a national ceremony at a future date to honour Paty.

Canada’s foreign affairs minister, François-Philippe Champagne, also condemned the attack on Twitter Saturday.

In a video posted recently on Twitter, a man describing himself as the father of a student asserted that Paty had shown an image of a naked man and told students it was “the prophet of the Muslims.”

Before showing the images, the teacher asked Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the room because he planned to show something shocking, the man said. “What was the message he wanted to send these children? What is this hate?” the man asked. The AP has not been able to independently confirm these claims.

Chechen refugees immigrated to France after war

Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s triggered a wave of emigration, with many Chechens heading for western Europe. France has offered asylum to many Chechens since the Russian military waged war against Islamist separatists in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s.

France has seen occasional violence involving its Chechen community in recent months, believed linked to local criminal activity and score-settling.

This is the second time in three weeks that terror has struck France linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after attacking two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The weekly was the target of a deadly newsroom attack in 2015 after it published cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. It republished the same caricatures last month to underscore the right to freedom of information as a trial opened linked to that attack.

Friday’s terror attack came as Macron’s government works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.

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B.C. teachers raise alarm about going back to classes after COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools

As students from across British Columbia head back to class on a voluntary basis today, some teachers say their employer is giving them little choice but to return to work in what they call an unsafe environment. 

This comes after at least 41 staff and students in Quebec tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened.

“I find it really unfortunate and very offensive, actually, because I think parents have the right to know [that] we can’t ensure that your kids are going to be socially distant all day in a classroom,” said one teacher from the North Vancouver School District.

CBC News has agreed not to name the teacher as she fears speaking out could cost her her job.

She has mapped out her class with measuring tape and says there’s not enough space for kids socially distance in it. Other than directional tape on the floor, she says, there’s no other means to help kids keep a safe distance.

Staggered schedules

The North Vancouver School District told CBC News that while the directive to stay two metres apart should be followed, “it may not be feasible and is not expected at all times in the school setting.”

The district added that classroom composition has been arranged “in thoughtful ways” with staggered schedules to reduce density with more time outside.

B.C.’s Ministry of Education said limits on the number of children “should help kids social distance.” For kindergarten to Grade 5, up to 50 per cent of students are allowed in the school at once. In higher grades, the limit is just 20 per cent.

The ministry added that some classrooms will need to be amalgamated to make up for some teachers not returning. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has dismissed concerns about schools reopening. “We know how to deal with this, we know that it is not easily spread, and we know we can prevent it by putting in place the measures that we have in our schools.”  

Teachers seeking accommodations

Teachers who do not feel safe returning say they feel there’s little choice. 

The North Vancouver teacher says her employer is providing little accommodation even for those who are immune-compromised. That means instead of being able to work from home, teachers who feel unsafe to go back or who cannot access childcare, in some cases must go on unpaid leave or use sick days. 

Nicole Jarvis, a teacher at the École Salish Secondary School thinks reopening is a good idea but doesn’t think everyone should be forced to return to the workplace.

“I am deeply hoping that colleagues who have requested work from home accommodations will be granted so,” Jarvis said.

It’s something the B.C. Teachers Federation also has concerns about.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, because the reasons why people are seeking accommodations [are] different under a pandemic, including child care being closed because because of COVID-19,” said Terri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Nicole Jarvis is a teacher at the École Salish Secondary School. She personally feels excited to return to class but hopes teachers who do not feel it is safe won’t be forced to return. (Nicole Jarvis )

Mooring added that the problem of teachers being granted accommodation in a timely manner is that there is a much larger number of teachers seeking it in a very short time period. 

But she said that “it is incumbent upon the employer to provide accommodations to members with appropriate medical information from their doctor to the point of undue hardship.” 

B.C. School Trustees Association president Stephanie Higginson says not every person who doesn’t want to return to work will be accommodated.

“It’s just not possible, nor would it be the responsible thing to do,” said Higginson.

She stresses that public health officials and scientists have deemed B.C. classes safe to return to. 

No budget increase

The Ministry of Education said there will be no budget increases to support teachers or custodians for the June reopening, however according to Higginson and Mooring, districts are getting creative.

According to Mooring, since the pandemic hit and schools closed, some now have a surplus after needing fewer supply teachers and fewer bus drivers, for example. She says some of that surplus can be used for additional custodians and cleaning supplies.

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring says there is a large number of teachers seeking accommodation in a short time period. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Other districts have moved custodial schedules.  

“We’ve switched the shifts so our night-time cleaning staff is doing the cleaning in the day and then we’ll have more of a skeleton crew on at night,” said Jarvis, who is also a union representative with local 36 of the BCTF.

She also added that teachers can ask the custodians for cleaning supplies if they want to do extra cleaning in high-traffic areas. 

Teachers won’t be provided with personal protective equipment, according to their employer, but they are able to bring their own, saying provincial health guidelines say that hand washing and surface cleaning are more effective at combating the virus.

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Jimmy Fallon Celebrates Teachers With Catchy Tune About Why They Should ‘Make a Billion Dollars’

Jimmy Fallon Celebrates Teachers With Catchy Tune About Why They Should ‘Make a Billion Dollars’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Hong Kong teachers’ rally starts another weekend of protests

Thousands of schoolteachers in Hong Kong marched to the official residence of the city’s leader on Saturday as another weekend of protests got underway.

An overflow crowd rallied at a nearby public square before setting off on streets that had been closed to traffic, carrying signs that read “Protect the next generation” and umbrellas to ward off intermittent downpours.

The teachers tied white ribbons to a metal fence near Government House to show their support for the protesters, who have taken to the streets since early June and include many students. They said the government of leader Carrie Lam should answer the protesters’ demands and stop using what they called police violence to disperse demonstrators who have taken over streets and besieged and defaced government buildings.

“We want to protect our students, our youngsters, so teachers are willing to come out and speak for the youngsters, and also, to stand by them so they are not alone,” said Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which organized the march.

Protesters were marching through a district on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour, and a counter-rally backing the government was planned for later Saturday.

“Even though we’re all scared of getting arrested, we have to keep going,” said Minnie Lee, a 31-year-old logistics worker who was marching in Kowloon. “What we are fighting for is democracy and our rights. We’re not doing anything wrong. If we stop now, things will only get worse.”

The Chinese city of Shenzhen is located across the border from Hong Kong. Paramilitary police were assembling in Shenzhen for exercises in what some saw as a threat to the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. (CBC News)

A rally in Victoria Park has been called for Sunday by a pro-democracy group that has organized three massive marches through central Hong Kong since June.

The movement’s demands include Lam’s resignation, democratic elections and an independent investigation into police use of force.

China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police has been holding drills this week across the border in Shenzhen, fuelling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests. Officers could be seen drilling inside a sports stadium on Saturday, and dozens of army-green armoured carriers and trucks are parked in and outside the facility.

The Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the protests.

“I can tell you we’re confident the police have the capability to maintain law and order,” Yeung Man-pun, commander of the Kowloon City district, said Friday when asked about the possibility of a deployment of mainland security forces.

Outside of Hong Kong, demonstrations were held in support of both the pro-democracy movement and China.

In Australia, at least 200 protesters descended on Sydney Town Hall, chanting “Long live China” and singing the Chinese national anthem, while a protest in support of the pro-democracy movement continued in Melbourne.

The Melbourne rally had turned ugly on Friday night, with police moving in to separate some 100 pro-China protesters from those sympathetic to Hong Kong. Saturday’s protest in the southern city was peaceful.

In Taiwan, people held a flash mob demonstration in Taipei, the island’s capital, in support of the Hong Kong protests.

The protesters wielded umbrellas against the rain as they took to the street in the latest demonstration. Another rally is expected Sunday. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

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Children and teachers killed in Jordan flash flood

At least 18 people, mainly schoolchildren and teachers, were killed today in a flash flood near the Dead Sea in Jordan, while they were on an outing, rescuers and hospital workers said.

Thirty-four people were saved in a major operation involving police helicopters and hundreds of army troops, police chief Brig.-Gen. Farid al Sharaa told state television. Some of those rescued were in serious condition.

A child who survived the floods stands with relatives in the hospital. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Many of those killed were children under 14. A number of families picnicking in the popular destination were also among the dead and injured, rescuers said, without giving a breakdown of numbers.

Hundreds of families and relatives converged on Shounah hospital a few kilometres from the resort area. Relatives sobbed and searched for details about the missing children, a witness said.

King Abdullah cancelled a trip to Bahrain to follow the rescue operations, state media said.

Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to assist, an Israeli military statement said, adding the team dispatched at Amman's request was operating on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

Civil defence spokesman Capt. Iyad al Omar told Reuters the number of casualties was expected to rise. Rescue workers using flashlights were searching the cliffs near the shore of the Dead Sea where bodies had been found.

A witness said a bus with 37 schoolchildren and seven teachers had been on a trip to the resort area when the raging flood waters swept them into a valley.

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Ontario government says it has an interim sex-ed curriculum elementary teachers must follow

The Ontario government has released an interim sex-ed curriculum for elementary school teachers to use this September, and Premier Doug Ford is suggesting there will be consequences if they don't adhere to it.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) was quick to blast the plan, accusing the Ford government of creating chaos instead of addressing the real issues facing the public school system just weeks before classes resume.

The Progressive Conservative government issued a news release about the changes on Wednesday afternoon, while also announcing plans for what it called an "unprecedented" provincewide consultation process on education reform and a future parents' bill of rights.

The Ford government has faced sharp criticism from a number of groups — including teachers' unions, many parents and the Official Opposition — over its decision to scrap the modernized sex-ed curriculum brought in by the former Liberal government in 2015, which included information about online bullying, sexting and gender identity.

A group of human rights lawyers are also challenging the government's decision in court on behalf of six families.

Neither Ford nor Education Minister Lisa Thompson took questions from reporters on Wednesday.

High school curriculum not changing — for now

The government's news release says teachers will use the 2014 health and physical education curriculum, which has been denounced by critics as the guidelines have been in place since 1998, predating smartphones, social media and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Simon Jefferies, Ford's spokesperson, said only students in Grades 1 to 8 will be taught the 223-page interim curriculum, which has now been posted online.

"The high school health and physical education curriculum is not changing in the interim consultation period," he said in an email to CBC News.

A government backgrounder urges any parent who believes a teacher is "jeopardizing their child's education by deliberately ignoring Ontario's curriculum" to alert the Ontario College of Teachers' investigations department.

Meanwhile, Ford appears to be taking a hard line about what will be taught when classes resume.

"We expect our teachers, principals and school board officials to fulfil their obligations to parents and children when it comes to what our students learn in the classroom," the premier said in the news release.

"We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games. And, make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act."

Teachers' union still has questions

ETFO President Sam Hammond warned in a news release that Ford's sex-ed curriculum changes 'will put a chill on the classroom and limit teachers' ability to meet the needs of students.' (CBC)

The province's largest teachers' unions have promised to defend any educator who continues to use the modernized curriculum.

EFTO president Sam Hammond attacked Ford's request that parents alert the authorities if their child is being taught the modernized curriculum. He called the move "unprecedented, outrageous, and shameful" in a tweet.

In a statement, Hammond said accused the government of misrepresenting how sex education is being taught with the goal of "manufacturing a crisis."

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said there's still "a huge lack of clarity" about what high school teachers will and won't be allowed to do when classes resume, even though they'll be free to use the latest curriculum.

Teachers would normally be able to teach what's in the curriculum, as well as enhancing it or answering additional questions without worrying about an "implied threat" from the government that doing so could get them in trouble, he said.

"It's a very peculiar way to go forward, to say the least," ​Bischof said of Ford's statements.

The OSSTF wasn't given any notice that the government was prepared to unveil an interim curriculum, he said.

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) chair Robin Pilkey also expressed frustration with the lack of clarity.

"Parents would have expected the province to have explained more clearly the differences between the two curriculums — both over 200 pages — but based on the information released today, we're disappointed to see that it's still very unclear," she said in an email statement.

Pilkey also pointed out the TDSB already has a protocol for parents who are concerned about what their children are being taught.

Consultation process will look at range of issues

A government backgrounder says the consultations will aim to create an "age-appropriate" health and physical education curriculum that includes "mental health, sex-ed and legalization of cannabis."

The government also said it plans to unveil an interim math curriculum in the coming weeks.

The PCs say the consultations will include an online survey, telephone town halls across the province, and a submission platform where the government will accept detailed proposals.

The government had initially promised to give the public a chance to weigh in on a new sex-ed curriculum. It now says the consultations will also seek parental feedback on number of issues, including math scores, cellphone use, financial literacy and how best to prepare students with needed job skills.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education refused to say how much the consultation process will cost. 

With files from Farrah Merali, Meagan Fitzpatrick and The Canadian Press

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Trump endorses raising minimum age for more weapons, revives idea of arming teachers

U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed stricter gun-control measures on Thursday, including raising the minimum age to 21 for possessing a broader range of weapons.

He tweeted his strongest stance as president one day after an emotional White House session where students and parents poured out wrenching tales of lost lives and pleaded for action.

“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!” Trump said on Twitter, without immediately offering more details.

Trump’s focus on gun violence came as leaders of the National Rifle Association offered a vigorous defence of gun rights during the Conservative Political Action Conference, urging enhanced — and armed — security at schools.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said NRA executive vice-president and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

The NRA officials didn’t address whether the federal government should raise the age limit for young adults to buy weapons, accusing Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting.

The current federal minimum age for buying or possessing handguns is 21, but the limit is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15 used by a former student in last week’s attack on a Florida high school that killed 17 students and staff members.

Trump met at the White House Thursday with state and administration officials on school safety. A White House official said the president was not endorsing or ruling out any specific policy.

‘Problem solved’

Despite his new push for at least some gun-control changes, Trump stressed his backing for the NRA, saying on Twitter that “the folks who work so hard at the NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

He also repeated his urgent call for trained teachers or others in schools to carry guns as a deterrent to attacks.

“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there … problem solved. Must be offensive, defence alone won’t work!” Trump tweeted.

Revisiting an idea he raised in his campaign, Trump’s comments come as lawmakers in several states are wrestling with the idea, including in Florida, where the 17 most recent school shooting victims are being mourned.

Assistant football coach Aaron Feis, hailed for shielding students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, “was very brave,” Trump said Wednesday during a listening session with parents and survivors of school shootings. “If he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run.”

Florida Republican Sen. Greg Steube said gun-free zones like schools are easy targets and has proposed allowing specially trained educators with military or law enforcement backgrounds to be armed.

“Our most valuable, most precious resources are our children. Why in the world are we going to put them in a circumstance where there is nobody that is armed and trained at any of our schools to be able to respond quickly to an active shooter situation?” Steube told The Associated Press, even as students, including survivors of the Parkland shooting, rallied at the state’s capitol in support of changes in gun laws.

Similar discussions have taken place in Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama in recent days and Wisconsin’s attorney general said he’s open to the idea.

“Our students do not need to be sitting ducks. Our teachers do not need to be defending themselves with a No. 2 pencil,” Republican Alabama Rep. Will Ainsworth said in proposing a bill days after the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida.

Deep divisions

The debate goes well beyond statehouse walls: teachers — and the public — are divided on the issue.

Salt Lake City, Utah, teacher Kasey Hansen said the idea to arm herself in school began with the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults died.

“It just really hit home that these teachers, all they could do was pile those kids in a corner and stand in front of them and hope for the best,” said Hansen, who carries a concealed handgun as she teaches special education students.

“I’m not here to tell all teachers that they have to carry a gun,” she said. “For me personally, I felt that it was more of a solution than just hiding in a corner and waiting.”

A makeshift memorial with crosses for the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre stands outside a home in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2013, the one-year anniversary of the shootings.(Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Utah is among at least eight states that allow, or don’t specifically prohibit, concealed weapons in K-12 schools, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In Austin, Texas, teacher Tara Bordeaux can’t easily see herself taking on that role, preferring to leave it to trained law enforcement officers.

“Would I get the same training and would I have the same type of instinct of when and how to use it?” asked Bordeaux, her state’s 2018 teacher of the year. “I don’t have any instincts in me to be an officer of the law. My instincts are to be a teacher.”

‘Hold off until help arrives’

Claude, Texas, Independent School District superintendent Brock Cartwright won’t reveal how many or who among his teachers is armed, but the district’s message to potential intruders blares in capital letters in three signs: “Please be aware that the staff at Claude ISD is armed and may use whatever force necessary to protect our students.”

A sign stands outside a school in Claude, Texas, in August 2016.(The Associated Press)

Like other administrators, Cartwright said armed teachers are just one part of safety plans that include drilling for emergencies and shoring up buildings. The small town east of Amarillo doesn’t have a police department, raising concerns about the potential response time for law enforcement.

“Hopefully, we never have to use it,” Cartwright said, “but if we do, our thought is we’re going to hold off until help arrives.”

The president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, called arming teachers “one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas.” Nevertheless, a tweeted offer by Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard Jones to train local teachers to carry a concealed handgun garnered so much interest that he quickly capped the number at 300.

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