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Nova Scotia teachers prepare for return to in-class learning, hope province changes course

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia only Atlantic province to return to in-person learning' Nova Scotia only Atlantic province to return to in-person learning
WATCH: Students in Nova Scotia are slated to head back to school on Monday, making our province the only one in Atlantic Canada preparing to kick off the new year with in-classroom learning. Many Nova Scotian teachers are calling for virtual learning until case numbers fall and fewer people are isolating. Alexa MacLean has more – Jan 4, 2022

Nova Scotia is the only Atlantic Canada province still planning to start 2022 with in-class learning and one Halifax teacher doesn’t understand why.

“What is different here? It’s the same virus, it’s the same transmissibility, and yet, most other jurisdictions are moving to online. Again, hopefully for a short period of time but they’re seeing that need. So, that weighs heavily on me as a teacher,” Ryan Lutes said, a high school teacher in Halifax.

Read more: COVID-19 - N.S. teachers union calls for remote learning as winter back-to-school approaches

As of Monday, Nova Scotia’s top doctor says there are no plans to move to virtual learning and that while he empathizes with concerns, sufficient protections are in place.

“Keeping kids in classroom cohorts, minimizing movements around the school, limiting external visitors,” Dr. Robert Strang said.

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Lutes says those comments don’t align with what’s being experienced on the ground.

“At high school levels, cohorting doesn’t happen. You’re in different classes all the time, kids are in the hallways together, at lunchtime there’s 1,500 kids that are supposed to be cohorted but they’re not, really — and masking is inconsistent at best,” he said.

Strang has said although schools have been heavily impacted by the latest COVID-19 wave, including pressures caused by staff shortages due to teachers having to isolate, the benefits of students being in classrooms are driving the decision to hold off on virtual learning.

“There’s a significant risk for kids not being in school and if we look at the overall well-being of children, the best place for them to be is in-person learning,” Strang said.

Read more: Prince Edward Island extends restrictions and delays reopening schools to Jan. 17

He also commented during the Monday briefing that, “the education system has well-established processes in place,” to support families of students who can’t be in schools.

Following the Monday provincial COVID-19 briefing, the Nova Scotia’s Teacher Union issued a statement calling for the interim move to virtual learning until overall case numbers diminish.

One major area of concern from the union’s perspective is ongoing operational pressures caused by educators forced to isolate due to high exposure rates.

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Lutes says support staff like resource teachers were pulled prior to the holiday break to help fill in the gaps caused by shortages.

“I think it’s important to note that even pre-pandemic there was a substitute teacher shortage in this province. There’s already schools that, every day, can’t get the required number of subs. So services to students, whether that’s resource or other services, need to get cut,” Lutes said.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: N.S. premier assures public most schools have adequate ventilation systems' COVID-19: N.S. premier assures public most schools have adequate ventilation systems
COVID-19: N.S. premier assures public most schools have adequate ventilation systems – Jan 3, 2022

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