Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Common sense expected to prevail

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COMMON sense and a doctor's note will prevail if H1N1 strikes the school system, whether it's a pregnant teacher staying home or a student missing a test, Manitoba School Boards Association vice-president Jacquie Field said Wednesday.

"Anytime you have a doctor's certificate saying you shouldn't be in the workplace, you follow the doctor," said Field, a trustee in Pembina Trails School Division.

Manitoba Teachers' Society and MSBA issued a joint statement Wednesday assuring parents that they would place the safety of students and staff first during any flu outbreak.

Educators have said previously that pregnant teachers should be extra vigilant during a flu outbreak, but that health officials had said pregnant teachers should continue to work unless they are ill.

Field said there is no province-wide policy on pregnant teachers during a flu outbreak.Field said the union and employer would work together locally on a case-by-case basis, if a doctor advised that a pregnant teacher should not be in the workplace.

Pregnant teachers and teachers with health problems could also switch schools temporarily if H1N1 strikes their regular school, MTS president Pat Isaak said Wednesday.

Isaak said that teachers have done that before, such as when measles has struck a school. "We've said to teachers all along, first and foremost, consult your physician," Isaak said.

"If a doctor feels someone is unsafe, the union and school division would work to accommodate people," Field said.

The teachers and trustees said they would work together at the local level to deal with any issues that arise during a flu outbreak, including any staff issues involving collective agreements.

The two organizations urged everyone involved in the school system to be reasonable and flexible if H1N1 hits Manitoba schools.

Field said that Manitoba Health would make the decision on any school closings. There are already alternatives for students who can't write exams because of weather or illness, Field said.

Isaak said that she hopes everyone is on the same page during any outbreak, but would not speculate about whether all senior administrators in Manitoba school divisions would prove to be open to pregnant teachers switching schools temporarily or staying home if their physician felt they were at risk.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2009 A7

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