NB education minister to keep close eye on COVID-19

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy answered some outstanding questions on the upcoming school year Wednesday, promising that if public health advises COVID-19 measures be reinstated, he will not hesitate.

That includes mandatory masking.

Right now, Cardy says he’s encouraging students and staff to do whatever they’re comfortable with.

“We’re still in COVID, we know that COVID is airborne, we know that COVID is going to continue to present stresses,” he said.

Cardy also said he’d like to see more children get the COVID-19 vaccine, now offered to children six months and older.

Two years ago, Cardy presented a bill that would have required children in public schools to provide proof of immunization unless they had an exemption signed by a medical professional.

It was defeated.

Cardy was asked Wednesday if he’d ever propose that legislation again.

“I would take advice from colleagues on that but I think my feelings on whether or not it’s necessary or not, they certainly haven’t changed,” he said.

He says the department has made a number of hires over the summer, and while staffing levels are not perfect, they are better than what they were.

There are 64 schools that do not have built-in, integrated ventilation systems, but work is underway to install the system in 10 of them. Cardy said the delay for the others is due to a shortage of contractors able to do the work.

And COVID-19 cases won’t be the only concern heading into the school year. Cardy said he will also be looking to hear from teachers on how students are doing and if the pandemic has impacted students’ learning.

“What we’re going to be doing is looking in a more organized way around Thanksgiving, and push out the questions: What are you seeing? What do you need? What are the issues? The stuff that we always get on a regular basis but this is just going to be obviously on a heightened level of awareness, because of the heightened level of importance with dealing with catch up from COVID,” he said.

Cardy says he’ll be watching to see if more teachers or parents request a student be held back so that they can catch up – something he believes could be positive for some children.