Growing cases of children sick with pink eye, impetigo, strep throat, and scarlet fever have Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland calling on the Liberal Minister of Education, Zach Churchill, to immediately address the health concerns at Dr. J.C. Wickwire Academy in Liverpool.
Standard custodial coverage at Wickwire Academy has been reduced by 30 hours a week and families are left wondering why their children are paying the price.
“No matter how hard custodial staff work, it is impossible for them to keep elementary classroom environments clean in this amount of time,” says Masland. “Parents are telling me this is having very detrimental effects on the health of their children. Something has to be done.”
“I have been advised that desks at this school are cleaned once a week,” Masland notes in her letter to the Minister. “Mr. Churchill, children eat their snacks at these desks. This is simply not appropriate infection control – these desks need to be disinfected daily.”
The MLA says nothing has improved since she brought the issue to the House of Assembly.
“Students are getting sicker and sicker,” she says. “The local ER has been swamped with sick children, one case even resulted in a child being hospitalized. This isn’t something to take lightly.”
Kris Snarby, a father of two, agrees.
“I met with staff at the board back in the Fall to express my concerns about these cuts, and I was assured that the cleanliness at Wickwire would not be affected by these cuts,” says Snarby. “It is obvious that it has had an impact on the health and safety of our kids, and they deserve better. When a child is getting sick with recurring illnesses every two to three weeks, you know there is a major problem!”
Caitlin Nickerson, another parent, says her child frequently stays home because of illness.
“Last year, my child missed one day of school due to sickness,” says Nickerson. “This year, I have lost track of how many unpaid sick days I have taken to care for my sick child.”
Masland says parents are worried and fed up. Some say they are prepared to remove their children from the school for the balance of the school year, due to these conditions, just to maintain their health.
The MLA says the department must do a proper investigation into the increasing illnesses and decreasing cleanliness at the academy. Masland is quick to defend the custodians who are doing the best they can under the cleaning time constraints
“Our children deserve to go to safe and clean schools,” says Masland. “These sub-par conditions must be cleaned up now.”