The closure of all schools in the Halifax area due to the rising numbers of infections and COVID-19 cases connected to schools has the backing of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
Paul Wozney, the union’s president, said in an interview with Global News Morning on Tuesday that the closures in the Halifax Regional Municipality is the right move to make, and has led to “a system-wide sigh of relief” for teachers in the region.
“People at school right now are not teaching and learning. They are surviving with terror. They’re scared to death that they’re going to get this virus. They know that they’re not protected, so this lifted a huge weight off of students and staff,” said Wozney.
He also said teachers feel better about the shift to online learning compared to one year ago.
“Last year, there was almost no notice. We did not have an ability to go to our buildings and collect resources. This year is different,” Wozney said.
As schools close for two weeks in the Halifax region, he said that the first two days of the closure are dedicated for teachers to work together and prepare to support their students.
“We’ve all spent the last year learning and becoming familiar with digital meeting tools, so teachers are in a far different place and students are as well,” said Wozney.
“They understand how video conferencing works and are better at how to navigate the digital platforms that online learning relies on in Scotia right now,” he added.
Since April 18, more than 30 schools connected to a COVID-19 case moved to at-home learning.
Premier Iain Rankin was also interviewed by Global News Morning on Tuesday. He said the decision to not close schools sooner in HRM was based on the advice of experts, which was to keep kids in classrooms as long as they can.
“It’s really important for kids overall well-being, particularly to their mental health and social skills. It is safe in schools. But we wanted to take action because of the sheer volume of schools that have been impacted by the amount of staff that are in self-isolation now,” said Rankin.
Rankin said at a COVID-10 briefing Monday that a number of teachers and school staff have already been diagnosed with the virus or are self-isolating because of close contacts.
He said health officials were also keeping a close eye on three schools in Cape Breton with reported cases of COVID-19.
As of now, schools in the Cape Breton region have not been ordered to close.
“The rationale that (Dr. Strang) is providing is that we don’t yet have the evidence of wide enough community spread to warrant a shift to remote learning in the same way in other parts of the province. We are watching very closely,” said Wozney.
He said that if it does become necessary, the union hopes to see public health and government “demonstrate the same proactive response.”