Leaders of unions that represent workers in Nova Scotia’s public education system gathered on Wednesday to voice concerns over the province’s back-to-school plan.
“We can’t start the school cramming 30 bodies into tight spaces without proper ventilation where they may, or may not, wear masks and hope that COVID is not going to spread,” Paul Wozney said, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
Unions representing school nurses, custodians and bus drivers joined in on Wednesday to say there isn’t enough work being done by the province to satisfy the concerns they’ve raised by Sept. 8, , the day that classes are set to resume.
“There’s definitely a lot of things like the social distancing that was declared for us across the province since March and that is not available in the schools at all. Ventilation, that’s a huge concern for me,” said Crystal Isert, a public school teacher with the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.
The province says direction from public health is guiding the return plan and that health and safety practices can be modified based on evolving coronavirus epidemiology.
Premier Stephen McNeil said Wednesday the return plan was developed in collaboration with the NSTU and he’s confident public health is leading schools and families in the safest direction possible.
“We’re proud of the work that we’ve been able to do in collaboration. Like we have done from the very beginning of this pandemic, we’re following and working closely with public health and we will continue to do so,” McNeil said.
Wozney says the union doesn’t denounce the plan in its entirety, but there are areas of concern that have been repeatedly raised that the province is failing to address.
He points to an original return model that the union approved which would have seen classes return on a rotating basis to allow for increased physical distancing.
“We rejected a shift from a plan that would physically distance and reduce class sizes and have high school students attending on a rotating basis when it was shared at the table,” he said.
The province recently announced an additional $40 million will be spent to help increase safety measures.
The funds will be used to hire more teachers, custodians, lunch monitors and early child care resources.View link »