Advertisement

Union leaders raise safety concerns over Nova Scotia’s back-to-school plan

Click to play video 'Teachers disappointed with N.S back to school plan as start date approaches' Teachers disappointed with N.S back to school plan as start date approaches
Teachers and union leaders gathered in Dartmouth on Wednesday to voice their uneasiness with the current back to school plan. The province says public health guidelines are being followed. Alexa MacLean has the story – Aug 19, 2020

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.

Read more: Nova Scotia seeing drastic increase in homeschooling interest

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video 'Critics say quality air ventilation will be difficult to achieve in schools' Critics say quality air ventilation will be difficult to achieve in schools
Critics say quality air ventilation will be difficult to achieve in schools – Aug 17, 2020

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.

Read more: N.S. to implement mandatory masks for Grade 4 to Grade 12 students

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video 'Parents, educators rally in Halifax seeking clarity on government’s back-to-school plan' Parents, educators rally in Halifax seeking clarity on government’s back-to-school plan
Parents, educators rally in Halifax seeking clarity on government’s back-to-school plan – Aug 10, 2020

“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.