An additional 55 full-time equivalent staff will be added to the roster at P.E.I. schools this winter, on top of a total of 160 added prior to the opening of schools in September.
Education Minister Brad Trivers announced the planned new hires in the legislature on Wednesday. Trivers said the staff hired temporarily for the start of the school year will also be retained until the end of the school year as well.
The additional hires will include 13 full-time equivalent (FTE) counsellors, 23.5 FTE educational assistants, three autism consultants, one autism programming assistant, 13 FTE bus drivers and 1.5 additional FTE teachers.
“Our back-to-school plans have allowed our Island school communities to return to school safely but we are seeing that COVID-19 has caused increased stress and anxiety,” Trivers told the legislature.
“We need to ensure that students can not only learn but thrive and that their mental health and well-being continues to be a priority.”
The many COVID-19 related measures set up in schools, including the cohorting of students, have been a challenge for staff in many ways.
But the news was greeted with qualified approval from both the Opposition Greens and Liberals.
Green MLA Karla Bernard said she appreciated the focus of the new hires on supports for students with autism.
“I really am appreciative of this announcement and look forward to hearing more about it,” Bernard said.
Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald also referred to the new hires as “fabulous.” He said he has heard from the administration of many schools about staffing issues.
But he questioned the time it took to put in place the new staff in the school system. He referred to the millions of dollars of COVID-19 related spending the province has received from the federal government.
“We’ve been asking for this for the past two or three months,” MacDonald said about additional staffing in schools.
“We’re just getting to this now."