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School realignment decisions should not be made without consultation

  • February 20, 2020
  • Published by NSTU1
This week parents, students and their teachers were blindsided by news that grade levels at schools across the province are being realigned to make room for pre-primary spaces. As a result, thousands of students will be entering junior high or senior high school a year earlier than expected. Teachers are being forced to box up years of work and relocate to different schools. The daily routines of thousands of students in late elementary, middle and high school and their families will be disrupted.

Parents were promised that rapid changes to public education over the past three years would enhance transparency, communication and accessibility. Instead, this major decision was made without a single second of consultation.

Understandably, many parents are upset and are voicing their disapproval on social media. I’ve also spoken to teachers that are struggling to come to grips with the reality that they will be leaving a school they love. There’s zero doubt this has created chaos, uncertainty and confusion for the students impacted as well.

On one hand, it’s true that grade realignments at Nova Scotia schools have happened before. There are cases where they are beneficial and appropriate. Further, as a concept, the NSTU is in favour of the creation of a pre-primary program for all Nova Scotian children. However, even if well intended, changes that impact students should never be made without first consulting with their parents. There is just too much at stake for choices to be made in haste without proper consideration.

In the past this decision would not have occurred in secret. It would have been reviewed by elected school board trustees at a public meeting. If community members had concerns, they could pick up the phone and call an elected trustee who could provide answers and offer support through the process.

Unfortunately, the McNeil government made a heavy-handed decision in 2018 to abolish elected English school boards. Parents have largely been left in the dark ever since. The body that supposedly replaced school boards, the Minister-appointed Provincial Advisory Council on Education (PACE), has yet to release the minutes of its last meeting before this decision was announced. That meeting took place almost three months ago in early December.

Screenshot of PACE Website taken on Feb 20, 2020. Minutes from Dec 1 & 2, 2019 meeting still not available.

School realignments are always challenging, but it’s the lack of transparency and accountability created by the McNeil government that is making this current process especially frustrating.

That’s why I urge parents, students and community members looking for answers to contact the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development’s office directly. He is the person responsible for this decision and he should be prepared to defend it while providing parents with the information they require. Here is the link to contact his office: https://www.ednet.ns.ca/department-contacts.

Nova Scotians deserve leadership over public education that is accountable and transparent. NSTU members continue to stand with parents, students and communities for governance that serves their interests first instead of political priorities.

Yours in solidarity,
Paul Wozney