The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers has seen the protocols issued today in relation to Kindergarten classes. Even on first reading these protocols have shown a complete disregard for social distancing requirements at this level. It stands out to notice that this document is very little more than a copy and paste of the original older document presented at the beginning of September.
The classes have been contemplated to contain a reduced number to a maximum of 15 children in Kinder 1, and a maximum of 19 children in Kinder 2 as per room measurement parameters with a possibility of 1.5m distance on paper. However, the children will be required to sit at round tables, whereby they will be unable to maintain the required social distance of 1.5m between students.
Another area of concern which the protocols do not seem to address is the role of the LSE, not only at Kindergarten level but at all levels. At Kindergarten level, with the possibility of social distancing already precluded by the seating arrangement, the close contact of the LSE with multiple students in the vicinities of the child being assisted is extremely worrying. However even with older students, maintaining social distance will be impossible for most.
The protocols say, “In order for Learning Support Educators to be able to provide the service required of them, they may need to work at a close distance to the students they are supporting, however, the distance may vary as it depends on each individual case. The LSE should always wear a mask or visor.” Thus, it becomes evident that the health of LSEs is automatically being given secondary importance, expecting them to provide a service wearing minimal PPE when even teachers are being placed at a distance of 2m away from the children, and the children themselves are being kept at around 1.2 to 1.5m apart.
The UPE is in communication with the ministry regarding the above mentioned issues, and will push for these issues to be addressed so as to safeguard the health and well-being of all educators involved.