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Families, teachers require more detail to ensure school reopening plan is safe

  • July 22, 2020
  • Published by NSTU1

July 22, 2020

Families, teachers require more detail to ensure school reopening plan is safe

NSTU President Paul Wozney says for the plan to reopen schools to succeed, parents, teachers and students must be confident that it’s safe. He says the government’s announcement today should be considered a start, but at this point there are still many concerns that need to be addressed.

“Nova Scotia families have been through a lot over the past four months, and we don’t want a situation where going to school means children can’t hug their grandparents, so safety has to be the top priority,” says Wozney. “I also know that many parents need to re-enter the workforce and kids miss their friends and require the stability that school brings. Teachers are excited to return to the job they love and reconnect with their students. But for this to happen safely by September a lot of questions need to be answered and government needs to do a better job of communicating its plans for the upcoming school year.”

Wozney says the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development needs to commit to providing regular public updates so families are kept up-to-date as the situation evolves.

“This plan impacts approximately 130,000 children and almost 15,000 teachers, administrators and staff. These families deserve the same courtesy from government that the business community has received in recent months. People making decisions that could impact the health and welfare of so many families need to be much more transparent and accountable as we approach September,” says Wozney.

Today’s plan raises further questions for families and teachers that include:

  • What is the provincial protocol to stop the spread of COVID-19 in a family of schools when a student, teacher or staff member tests positive? How will parents and the public be notified? What are the rules for isolating those who have been exposed?
  • What are the triggers that determine how schools move back and forth through the three scenarios outlined in the reopening plan? Newfoundland and Labrador has adopted a similar strategy, but unlike Nova Scotia, the triggers are explicit. In Newfoundland and Labrador close to normal classes take place when community transmission is “very low,” mixed learning occurs when transmission is “low to moderate,” and full distance learning is initiated when transmission is “moderate to widespread.”
  • What measures will be taken to ensure that students and teachers who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions (or who share a household with someone who is immunocompromised or has underlying health conditions) are protected? If they can’t enter schools, how will they be accommodated?
  • Are the resources teachers and students will need to use if a shift to other scenarios is required on hand and ready for everyone to learn to use immediately? The plan must include equipping students and staff with standard and supported devices and with training on how to use them so everyone can experience success if partial or full remote learning becomes necessary because of COVID-19 spread. The system must demonstrate proactive preparation for these scenarios as part of a return to school.

“These are unprecedented times. A year ago, nobody could anticipate that we’d be trying to restart in-person learning in the middle of a global pandemic. I appreciate that Minister Churchill and Dr. Strang have some extremely difficult decisions to make and the NSTU is committed to working with them to ensure students can safely return to school. But for the sake of all involved, this process must be more proactive and transparent than it’s been to this point.”