By Victoria Gray
Students on Six Nations won’t return to school this year and childcare centres will not reopen until the community is out of the Black Alert Level.
Federal schools on Six Nations of the Grand River will remain closed until September, the decision from Six Nations Elected Council was made at a special council meeting held on Friday, February 19, wherein Reva Bomberry, principal of I.L. Thomas Elementary School recommended the schools remain closed because of COVID-19 cases in the community.
“Safety has always been a priority for us,” she said. “We’ve dealt with the protocols in schools, our schools are safe, but there are many, many factors that impact safety beyond our control. It lies in the community, we’re still in the black, obviously until we’re out of black, at this point we are not looking at opening back and fourth. It’s very stressful on all of us… (We’ve been) listening to community and parents and staff. We’ve tried incredibly hard to address each and every issue coming forward from parents and staff. It has been extremely difficult. We are still vulnerable… our schools are not safe until the community has control of COVID-19.”
The Emergency Control Group recommended to council that schools and child care facilities be exempt from the Black Alert Level and open to staff on February 22 and students on March 1.
Councillor Wendy Johnson thought the idea that children should be exempt from the stay at home measures was off-base.
“We were implored to create a COVID-19 framework with a colour system with the highest level being black. It’s a very distinct piece to that. I find it absolutely unbelievable that it’s being put on the table to exempt children and schools be exempt from that framework,” she said. “If we’re going to start exempting then we need to go back to the drawing board. I find that very hard to take that that was put on the table, no disrespect, but we have that in place for a reason.”
Councillor Audrey Powless-Bomberry said all she needed to hear to support a September start was someone on the ground’s opinion.
“That’s what I was waiting to hear, what about our threat. That’s what I needed to hear to help make decision I support Reva- her recommendation that we do keep the kids out until September. It gives us a lot of time for vaccinations to take place. We may have a better chance of having herd immunity and less chance of a child taking it home to grandparents or people with weak immune systems and troubled by high numbers and my heart breaks for people who lose family members,” she said.
Councillor Sherri-Lyn Hill Pierce mentioned again that if students go back to school councillors should go back to council chambers.
Child care centres and before and after school programming will also remain closed. Arliss Skye, director of Six Nations Social Services and Yvette Martin of the Six Nations Early Year and Child Care Services manager gave a presentation to council to show them how they’ve prepared the centre for children to return including, ensuring staff wear scrubs that stay at the facility, PPE, adding dishwashers to sanitize toys, a daily sanitization schedule for toys and surfaces, cycling toys, spending almost 80 per cent of the day outside with a mobile sanitization basket, plastic dividers in the bathroom, spaced out cubbies and tables and much more.
Councillors said they appreciated the effort and it looked like great strides were made, but until they make the decision to step down in the COVID-19 Alert Status the centre will not reopen.
By Victoria Gray