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Schools in Waterloo, Ontario Assigned Only One Nurse For Every 2,500 Students in the Middle of a Pandemic

Each nurse will be responsible for 12 different schools

Doug Ford’s school reopening plan is leaving some schools understaffed when it comes to nurses who are responsible for monitoring health and safety procedures and responding to outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools.

Waterloo Region District School Board, one of the largest school boards in Ontario with 64,000 students and 121 schools, will be provided with just 25 new nurses to assist with efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in area schools.

That’s one nurse for every 2,560 students — or one nurse for every 12 schools.

In a statement to PressProgress, a spokesperson for Region of Waterloo Public Health said it has hired 25 nurses who are currently being trained and will receive their school assignments “shortly.”

“Each nurse will provide support to approximately 12 schools including those in the Public, Catholic, English and French school boards; private and parochial schools,” the public health spokesperson said.

These nurses, they said, will be responsible for managing contract tracing and “daily surveillance” and help implement infection prevention and control procedures and support cohort isolation.

Additionally, the nurses will be required to “conduct virtual or on-site visits as needed as part of outbreak investigation.”

Ford’s school reopening plan has been widely criticized over the lack of funding to scale down class sizes, provide masks and ensure safe custodial services.

The provincial government has also yet to fully deploy the nurses it promised to hire to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 — in some regions, that support appears uneven.

As PressProgress reported previously the Ford government’s school reopening plan has been widely criticized for offering insufficient funds to shrink class sizes, provide regular mask supplies and ensure safe custodial services.

Additionally, the government has reportedly yet to fully deploy the nurses it promised Ontario’s schools to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And, in some regions, that support appears uneven.

Elementary Teachers’ Federation Of Ontario Waterloo Occasional Teacher Local President Nathan Core told PressProgress that the nurses the ministry promised have yet to arrive.

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said Ontario schools are facing a shortage of nurses across the province.

“The math is pretty simple, the number of nurses that they’re hiring — split over 4,800 schools,” Bischof told PressProgress. “You have nurses who will only be able to visit each school once every two weeks or so.”

Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, echoed Bichof’s concerns about the Ford government’s handling of school reopenings.

“Despite the fact that schools have now been open for almost a month, we are hearing reports that in many cases these nurses have either not yet been hired, or they have been given no specific mandate or tasks,” Stuart told PressProgress.

“This is illustrative of a common practice by Premier Ford and Minister Lecce when it comes to providing resources for publicly-funded education,” Stuart added.

“They say a lot of big-sounding numbers to confuse and mislead the public, but when we actually consider the number of students and schools in the province, the real impact is far less than what they would like us to believe.”


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