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A policy printed in pencil?

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Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

Hours after our story appeared in Wednesday’s paper, reporting that schools would not be notifying parents if there was a confirmed case of H1N1 or an unusual level of absences, Education Minister Peter Bjornson announced that school division websites would henceforth list any school with a high absentee rate that day.

I’m sure that this was entirely due to my story, and to the strong reader reaction demanding that parents be told what’s happening in their kids’ schools.

It goes without saying that Premier Gary Doer’s going on CJOB Wednesday morning and saying that, as a parent, he’d want to know -- gosh, something that innocuous and ambiguous from just one parent would never produce an instant policy shift from the health and education ministers and bureaucracies.

Remember, the criterion for a school’s reporting to the public health nurse is an absence rate 10 per cent above seasonal norms, not just having 10 per cent or more students absent.

As one reader posted on our website, if schools can tell parents that there’s head lice in a school, then surely parents should be told about something far more serious, such as H1N1. Or, before tests confirm a specific illness, at least about high levels of absence that could be the flu.

And about eight or so years ago, when meningitis hit our day care and a couple of local schools, we were kept up-to-date about what was happening and the measures being taken.

Moving on...

Interesting story in this month’s edition of The Manitoba Teacher. There’ll be a position paper presented at the annual teachers’ convention in May on special needs education, the effect on teachers’ workload and the presence or lack of the resources and support staff necessary to meet the needs of special needs students.

The MTS convention is usually dominated by internal business and union matters, with very little on education policies and issues that outsiders would consider newsworthy.

Meanwhile...

Great way to start our city recreational volleyball program in a school gym, being told that the program would be immediately terminated if Winnipeg School Division found a single scuff mark on the gym floor.

Sigh.

Still going through these weird moments of having both kids in university. I drive by Grant Park High and there’s a sign for the meet-the-teacher barbecue, first one we’ve not gone to in 10 years.

Refereeing soccer on the pitches behind the school and wondering if the varsity volleyball teams are inside practicing or maybe even having a game.

Taking Selkirk Avenue out to Route 90 and passing by the cross-country course around the stormwater retention pond, and remembering a lot of September afternoons.

On the other hand, no longer having to get anyone to school at 7 a.m. for volleyball practice.

And a quick segue... Quite a while since I’ve had a sedentary evening, but going to be watching the tube this evening, with the Habs playing my Mighty Maples, bound for Stanley Cup glory.

Yes, I know, Kessel won’t be playing, and I’m not booking flights to the Bay Street parade — yet — I’m not mistaking The Monster for Turk Broda, but how long has it been since we proud citizens of Leafs Nation found it necessary to debate the merits of prospects deserving to be in the lineup?

Stalberg will play, doubt it’ll be long until Hanson and Bozak join him, expect to see Kadri this time next year. No, I’m not suggesting they’re Keon, Armstrong, Pulford, Duff, but quite a while since the Leafs actually had decent young prospects instead of high draft picks that they hadn’t traded away for 35-year-olds.

Best defence in ages, too — not Brewer and Baun, Stanley and Horton, but nevertheless real NHL defencemen. But, alas, I fear that Burke and Wilson are determined to have a goon show with the fourth line.

And switching topics again...

You never know who’s reading your stories online. A mother got in touch from Kingston, wanting to talk about the bullying torment her son suffered when they lived in Edmonton.

On the other hand, I got a 12-page misogynistic diatribe in an oldf-ashioned mailed letter, typed in very small print, from someone I’ll constrain myself and call a member of the religious fringe, from Windsor, Ontario. Sorry, I didn’t read the whole thing, and no, I won’t be doing a story about it.

And finally, close friend of mine posted some very thoughtful comments on homophobia on the WFP website, and put his name on it, first and last names, choosing not to hide behind anonymous pseudonyms. Though, of course, he’s in his 60s and grew up with different standards of civility and responsibility.
 

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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