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Nova Scotia to spend $21M on new laptops for school students learning from home

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WATCH: The province is in the process of purchasing 32,000 computers and making major upgrades to internet access in schools in case students are sent back home for online learning. Jesse Thomas has more. – Nov 23, 2020

Nova Scotia is working to improve at-home learning for students and teachers as it announces millions dedicated to purchasing new technology.

The province says it committed to purchasing 32,000 new Chromebooks as a way of removing barriers to education during a pandemic.

It will also upgrade Wi-Fi service in schools across the province to ensure teachers can adequately support students working from home.

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This commitment comes with a $21.5 million price tag.

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“All our children deserve a quality education, whether they are learning at school or at home,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, in a news release on Monday.

“These purchases will put computers in the hands of students who need them and support teachers and principals at their schools with upgraded technology.”

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney said the purchase of additional computers and upgrades to additional technology should have been implemented in September when the school year began. But, he said it’s better late than never.

“We currently have no provincial guidelines for blended learning and we have no provincial guidelines for fully remote learning in place,” said Wozney.

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Last week, two schools in the HRM reported the province’s first cases of COVID-19 in the education systems which promoted Public Health to close both Auburn Drive High in Cole Harbour and Graham Creighton Junior High in Cherry Brook for two weeks.

“They are day one of learning from home and teaching from home,” said Wozney, “and they are making it up as they go.”

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 26 per cent of families in Nova Scotia said they had technology challenges with at-home learning.

Black and Indigenous families were more likely to face these challenges, the province said.

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Tim Simony, chair of the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia, said in the release:

“This investment in equipment and infrastructure will help to ensure that those challenges are mitigated for students now and in the future. It will help to offset the inequitable impacts that many families faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The new amount more than doubles the province’s initial technology initiative when 14,000 devices were given to schools in September.

The move comes just one day after the province reported the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases. Eleven new cases were reported Sunday.

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Minister Churchill confirmed Monday that public health has not identified any new positive COVID-19 cases relating to the two cases identified at Auburn Drive and the other case at Graham Creighton.

Both schools are slated to reopen as early as December 7th.

The province says part of the $21.5 million funding announcement will also support 10 new full-time positions to provide support for the distribution of the new devices and infrastructure upgrades and to support online learning across the province.

 

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