All Nova Scotia schools will reopen Tuesday morning after Education Minister Karen Casey said the province is confident the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) “modified its directives to teachers in such a way that schools can now open safely.”
Schools were closed to students Monday after the government said Saturday that work-to-rule guidelines for teachers and principals put students at risk.
Citing a memo sent from the NSTU to administrators “some time” Friday, the government says “principals will take all reasonable steps to create and maintain an orderly and safe learning environment in our schools,” Casey said.
“Principals have now been given the authority to modify the rule directive that was given to them relating to the supervision of students who arrive 20 minutes before school begins and, who stay at lunch, and after school for 20 minutes after school ends.”
Teachers will still be in a work-to-rule position, so they won’t be participating in extra-curricular activities, supervision and other voluntary duties not outlined in their contract.
Initially, both teachers and principals had been told not to arrive at school until 20 minutes before class starts and not stay longer than 20 minutes past the final bell. They were also not to supervise students at lunch and recess breaks.
Casey said the issue of student safety was raised with the union by principals as well as the government. She said superintendents were also worried about what she called “a clear threat to student safety” if teachers and principals followed original work-to-rule guidelines.
The memo sent to administrators outlining the change in work-to-rule supervision protocol was sent Friday, however, Casey said she was never “notified of that officially.”
The NSTU, however, says they communicated the clarification to the province on Friday.
Casey added that schools were still closed Monday because the government wanted to ensure superintendents “believed that they could open their schools safely,” some of which took place over the weekend and Monday morning.
When asked about the future of Bill 75 — the bill that would impose a contract on teachers — Casey said they continue to be at the negotiating table, and welcome teachers to come back as well.
When asked if she should resign, Casey said she has “no intention of resigning.”
“I believe that we have handled the education file very effectively in this province,” she said.
In a statement from Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie, he calls for Premier Stephen McNeil to fire Casey due to the government’s “incompetent and dishonest handling of the teachers’ labour disruption.”
“Like teachers, parents and students across the province, the members of the Progressive Conservative Caucus have lost confidence in Karen Casey’s ability to lead the education department. It is now clear the Minister used students as pawns in a political game, risking their education and more pressingly, their safety,” the statement reads.
Baillie says it’s clear that Casey can no longer handle the file and negotiate with teachers in the ongoing dispute.
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