November 30, 2016 4:00 pm
Updated: December 1, 2016 11:58 am

With work-to-rule days away, NS students worried about breakfast program

There are only days to go before unionized public school teachers in Nova Scotia begin job action. The list of questions surrounding how work-to-rule will impact students continues to get longer by the day, including what happens to breakfast programs. Global's Natasha Pace reports.

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Students at Dartmouth High School are concerned about how their breakfast program will continue to operate, as teachers across Nova Scotia prepare for work-to-rule job action.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers to start work-to-rule next Monday

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“Students really do heavily rely on it. About 30 to 40 every day come to our program, that’s almost 200 meals a week,” said Claire Graham, a Grade 12 student at Dartmouth High and one of the operators of the breakfast program.

Millions of meals served annually

In Nova Scotia, 90 per cent of all schools now operate a breakfast program. Last year, five million meals were served to students ranging from elementary to high school.

Provincial funding is provided to all schools who participate in the program, but how each school chooses to operate their breakfast club is up to them. In some cases, teachers and other school staff help to run the program.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers’ 16 contract demands and what the province says they cost

With work-to-rule job action slated to start on Dec. 5, there will be no sports, extracurricular activities or Christmas concerts. Unionized teachers will not be collecting money from students, do any clerical duties or data entry.

Students say breakfast program ‘vital’

Teachers also won’t be arriving at school until 20 minutes before classes start.

That means students like Graham have a fraction of the time they need to organize their breakfast program.

“It’s really hard because we can’t even get into the school until 8:10 a.m. Which means we can’t set it up until 8:10 and it takes about ten minutes to set up and our warning bell to get to class rings at 8:25 a.m., which give the students only 5 minutes,” said Graham.

Those who use the breakfast program say it’s vital.

“Because my mom, she’s a single mom and she has both me and my brother and we just don’t have a lot of time in the mornings,” said Mikayla Stewart, who is in Grade 12. “The breakfast club is really solid to have.”

WATCH: Nova Scotia daycares prepare, fill up for potential teachers strike

Students say being able to get breakfast at school helps them start their day off right and concentrate in class.

“A lot of times I will just grab a bagel or some toast or something from the breakfast program and that will get me through until lunch, because I find it really hard to work on an empty stomach,” said Sydney Brimicombe, a Grade 12 student.

Not blaming teachers, students prepare for walk out

Students say they want to make it clear – although they are concerned about their breakfast program, they do not blame teachers for taking job action.

“Right now, I’m looking for the government to start listening to the students. Really listen to us,” said Graham.

“We know our teachers, we love our teachers, they’re great. They’ve always been great. They do so much for our school. So much more than just teach in a classroom.”

READ MORE: Hundreds of Nova Scotia teachers, parents, kids march on Liberal MLA offices

A province-wide walk out is being planned for Friday afternoon by students in an effort to show solidarity and support for their teachers.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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