‘Mixed emotions’ among N.S. teachers as mask mandate in public schools ends

Click to play video: 'NSTU President on lifting of mask mandate in schools' NSTU President on lifting of mask mandate in schools
We talk with Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, to get his take on the lifting of mask mandates in schools. – May 24, 2022

The mask mandate for children in Nova Scotia public schools has been officially lifted as of Tuesday morning.

Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union president Paul Wozney said in a morning interview it’s “a day of mixed emotions.”

Wozney said union members are evenly split on the decision, which was announced just last week.

“There are some folks (who feel) it’s time,” he said. “There have been a lot of complications because masking, particularly with teachers who work with kids at the early language acquisition stages.”

Read more: COVID-19: Nova Scotia ending mandate for masks in public schools

But he said there are also teachers who are immunocompromised or have immunocompromised family members, and are “deeply concerned.”

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The province said last week in a Thursday morning release though the requirement is lifted, “masks will continue to be recommended” and those “who choose to wear a mask will be supported.”

It listed warmer weather and the possibility for outdoor learning as reasons for ending the mandate.

Mask requirements were previously lifted everywhere but schools, hospitals and long term care, along with most other restrictions on March 21. Now, school students, staff and visitors will not be required to wear a mask in Nova Scotia.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia lifts mask mandate in schools' Nova Scotia lifts mask mandate in schools
Nova Scotia lifts mask mandate in schools – May 19, 2022

Wozney said he’s surprised “to some degree” that the measure was lifted before June, but he said Nova Scotia was the last province to do so.

“In some ways we’re the envy of the country. Lots of teachers wish that masking had remained as long as it did (in Nova Scotia),” he said.

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The real concern now is seeing how lifting masking will impact staffing levels.

“It’s been hard even with masking to keep the doors open in schools,” Wozney said.

“Teachers are covering off positions that can’t be filled because we have such a desperate need for substitute teachers.”

Read more: COVID-19 communication in N.S. and the hot-button political issue it continues to be

This will be the third consecutive year that the end of the school year has been disturbed by COVID-19.  As a tumultuous school year comes to an end, Wozney said people are barely hanging on as it is.

Wozney said the debate around masking “is not a civil one,” and teachers are not able to referee that conflict.

“My plea to Nova Scotians is, whether you support the end of masking or you don’t, if you have views, teachers didn’t make this decision, the people in government did,” he said.

“The best place to take those views are not to the classroom to politicize the work of students and teachers, but to take it to your government representative.”


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