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What is the new normal as Nova Scotia teachers adjust to legislated contract?

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What is the new normal as Nova Scotia teachers adjust to legislated contract?
WATCH ABOVE: Intramural sports, clubs, concerts, plays and more could be cut from school life as Nova Scotia’s teachers adjust to a contract imposed on them through legislation. Global’s Marieke Walsh explains – Feb 22, 2017

Intramural sports, clubs, concerts, plays and more could be cut from school life as Nova Scotia’s teachers adjust to a contract imposed on them through legislation.

READ MORE: Bill 75, legislating a contract on Nova Scotia’s teachers becomes law

On Wednesday Bill 75 proclaimed a new teachers contract, closing the chapter on a contract dispute stretching back to 2015. But, teachers are signalling that while they have a new contract, their fight with the government is far from over.

The contract puts an end to the teachers legal strike action which included a hybrid of work-to-rule and withdrawing services they were expected to do under the contract. However, according to the union, teachers won’t be forced to return those extra responsibilities, like organizing clubs and team sports.

In a memo sent to teachers and obtained by Global News, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) outlines what teachers are required to do.

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The list includes:

  • being at school 20 minutes before and after the bell
  • attending staff meetings
  • data entry in PowerSchool and TIENET
  • and accepting and supervising student teachers

READ MORE: NS teachers tell legislature that imposed contract will hurt students most

On the flip side, the memo says there are several items that teachers can still refuse to do, including lunch time supervision, organizing extracurricular activities and giving students extra help outside of class time.

Amount of extra work is up to individual teachers

The union says its not telling the province’s 9,300 teachers how to act in the wake of Bill 75.

“NSTU members should not act together in a refusal to participate in the (extra) activities,” read a bolded section of the memo. “It is essential that each member use their individual professional discretion in determining the extent of their involvement.”

With no direction from the union, physical education teacher Shawn Hanifen said schools will have different programming from what students are used to. For example he said sports teams “are going to be decimated by this.”

“There’s going to be a new normal where they’re just going to stick to the contract,” Hanifen said. “Teachers are basically past their breaking point, they have no interest now in doing anything for this government other than what they’re mandated to do under the Education Act or under the contract.”

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Several other teachers who spoke with Global News say they plan to limit their involvement in clubs and sports teams, and they expect many spring concerts and plays will be cancelled.

READ MORE: 5 universities taking Nova Scotia Teachers Union to court over work-to-rule

Second year student teachers from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax will either start or resume their practicums in Nova Scotia classrooms on Monday, Feb. 27, according to university spokesperson Kelly Grant.

Grant said this will give the students eight weeks of classroom experience, meaning they’ll be able to graduate on time and meet their requirements for teaching certification in the province.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia among few provinces without class caps for all grades

On Tuesday, Premier Stephen McNeil stood by the legislated contract, saying the teachers’ job action was having an “impact on students.”

“Things not being signed, specialist appointments from psychologists, tests being done, people not getting letters for university applications, there’s a host of impacts that were happening,” he said. “We’re hearing issues of stuff that was happening on the playground where there wasn’t supervision, there’s no question this was having an impact on schools.”

Education ‘held hostage’: Parent

Reaction to the legislated contract and the end to formal job action was mixed at St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay Elementary School Wednesday morning.

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“I don’t necessarily agree that the province should be legislating a contract, but I also don’t agree that my child’s education is being held hostage by a collective bargaining process,” said one parent who asked not to be named.

He said if teachers are expected to work extra duties it should be outlined in their contract so there are no “grey areas.”

READ MORE: Why one Nova Scotia teacher voted ‘no’ to the contract, and what she says needs to change

Several other parents suggested that teachers shouldn’t have to do work that isn’t in their collective agreement.

“I’m a contract worker I work to letter of my contract,” said David Parks. “Teachers historically have always been available outside school hours … but that’s free labour, so if the system relies on free labour I think you have to look at the system.”

He suggested parents should become more involved with extracurricular activities.

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