Welcome to Act For Education


On abandoning physical distancing in reopening #nsed schools

  • August 05, 2020
  • Published by NSTU1
Nova Scotians should know that the original plan for “scenario 1” included physically distanced/cohorted/reduced size classes for P-9 & blended learning for high school because we know cohorting in high school doesn’t work.
This model changed several weeks after planning began. The Nova Scotia Teachers Union questioned the shift at the time, alarmed. It was made anyway. No studies or epidemiological evidence was furnished to the NSTU to justify the shift.

The shift was made without:
  • a comprehensive report by principals about how many students/class could be distanced at their site based on blueprints/actual floor plans of real buildings
  • a comprehensive report from teachers that identified where distancing could not happen due to existing student/staff furniture/fixtures in the classrooms/spaces they work in
  • a comprehensive report by teachers about high touch surface-based learning materials (ex: play based manipulatives in early years, science/tech ed/family studies/music/phys ed tools & equipment) that would require “per use” sterilization for safe learning use
The announced reopening plan abandons physical distancing, a bedrock habit every country worldwide has called on people to practice at all times as essential to flattening the curve & prevent further spread. Instead? “Distance where possible…”
Our most senior government leaders won’t conduct business in person, EVEN WITH physical distancing, and assert it’s their safety & life on the line to justify leading & working this way.Those same leaders now have ordered 150,000 children & staff, ages 4-60+, back to over 300 sites without a comprehensive understanding of the degree to which each site can distance people, if at all, but expect Nova Scotians to simply believe it can happen.

Fun summer project:
  • Go ahead and call your RCE/CSAP.
  • Tell them what school & grade your student is in.
  • Ask them how distanced your student will be in the classroom they’ll be learning in this fall.
(Spoiler alert: they don’t even have a projection, much less hard calculations.)
Senior leadership of this province owes its children, families & school staff a detailed, evidence based & epidemiologically modelled rationale for how the DOEECD “scenario 1” plan will keep children & school staff safe AND prevent COVID-19 spread. Instead of being able to demonstrate this in clear, well-supported terms, Nova Scotians are now being told that a certain amount of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization & potential deaths in our schools is a level of risk that’s acceptable & necessary for economic reasons.

Every last member of the current government has ZERO excuse to refuse to return to life as usual after installing this plan. If it’s safe enough for kids & school staff? You live & work by it EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY to show us all how safe it is. I don’t have to tell the people of this province what a continued refusal to do so means about the readiness of our schools to open & support meaningful learning in a way that keeps kids, staff & all Nova Scotians safe from a 2nd wave.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union remains ready & willing to partner to revise/improve the plan for scenario 1 to address these vital concerns. There remains time to get this right & ensure schools respect physical distancing as a fundamental component of safety & learning.

That said, time will tell if safety in schools is truly a priority, or whether flinging our borders open matters more than a plan that makes sense & provides students, families & staff with confidence that learning & teaching isn’t a recipe for disaster.

Paul Wozney,

President, Nova Scotia Teachers Union