Education featured Labour

Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education: An open letter to business leaders in Nova Scotia

20 August 2020

Attn: Amherst & Area Chamber of Commerce; Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce; Antigonish Chamber of Commerce; Avon Chamber of Commerce; Bridgetown & Area Chamber of Commerce Society; Bridgewater & Area Chamber of Commerce; Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce; Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Nova Scotia; Chambre de commerce de Clare; Chester Municipal Chamber of Commerce; Digby & Area Board of Trade; East Hants & Districts Chamber of Commerce; Guysborough & Area Board of Trade; Halifax Chamber of Commerce; Lunenburg Board of Trade; Mahone Bay Tourism and Chamber of Commerce; Musquodoboit Harbour Chamber of Commerce; North Queens Board of Trade; Pictou County Chamber of Commerce; Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce & Civic Affairs; Shelburne & Area Chamber of Commerce; Six Rivers Chamber of Commerce; South Queens Chamber of Commerce; Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce; Strait Area Chamber of Commerce; Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce; Weymouth Board of Trade; Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Commerce 

September is bearing down on us. In a few short weeks, 150,000 students, teachers, administrators, educational assistants, caretakers and custodians, librarians, food service workers, youth health coordinators, and myriad support staff will be filling in Nova Scotia schools, despite an ongoing worldwide pandemic. 

Despite rigourous public health measures in all other areas of society, including those which affect your member businesses, the current back-to-school plan is a near-status quo approach with minimal health measures, leaving us as parents and family members with unanswered questions about how this will impact our lives. 

In the approximately nine months since the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a lot has changed about our understanding of it, how it spreads, whom it affects, and the health implications — both short- and long-term — of its resulting illness: COVID-19. We feel strongly that the current approach to reopening schools falls short of the basic health and safety protocols — protocols which, if ignored, would shut the doors of your member businesses. As parents, family members, and caregivers, we believe that the same protocols should be in place for schools. 

Your organizations represent employers of all sizes in this province. We are asking you, along with your membership, to stand with the 17,000+ members of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education in demanding that schools adhere to the minimum requirements as set out by public health: 

  • Masks required for all employees and students who can wear them 
  • Physical distancing of 2m when students are in groups larger than 10 
  • Properly ventilated learning spaces, including those that meet minimum standards for fresh air intake according to best practices for reducing the spread of illness. 

We are also asking for: 

  • Paid sick time, so parents can keep children home when they exhibit symptoms; 
  • Answers to questions about communication of case numbers in schools; 
  • Information on how inclusion and how before-/after-school care affects planned “bubbles” of students; 
  • Delays to the school year, to ensure all mitigation measures and public health standards are ready for students and staff; 
  • Alternatives to in-class learning support by the public education system, which fully supports students and families who must stay home for extreme health issues, such as respiratory and other conditions which affect immunity; and 
  • Assurances that those students who are most vulnerable will be top-of-mind in the event of school or system-wide reduction of capacity or closures as a result of moving through the latter phases of the current back-to-school plan. 

We want our kids back in school as much as your members want their employees to be available to work and help grow your businesses. We know that the past six months have been devastating for the economy, and that returning students to schools is one piece of getting back on track. We want to ensure that we get this right to avoid disruptive future outbreaks and school closures, which further complicate our economic recovery. We hope you will stand with us, your communities, clients, patrons, and employees. We believe this will allow Nova Scotia to continue to lead most jurisdictions in low COVID case numbers, few hospitalizations, a low death rate, and a strong, cohesive community ready to get back to work. 

Thank you for your consideration. We hope you will help us advocate for families as the clock winds down. 


Members of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education 

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  1. I really don’t feel comfortable sending my 2 children to school with flu season coming as well. They both have asthma and I am stressing out the least little cough or sneeze my children will catch it. I want a online schooling to be done for children that have any respiratory conditions to help our children not fall behind in their education. Until this is under control!

  2. This is so true! In my opinion, classes should start with half the class on alternating days so that social distancing could be enforced more easily. This would also allow schools to work out the problems that will most certainly arise with fewer students in each space. The Government “plan” is not comprehensive enough and leaves parents and school staff with too many unanswered questions!

  3. One case is one too many in my book! We need to be focused on implementing all available and reasonable measures to achieve 100% prevention (aim for zero cases) of virus spread in any school community. Not good enough to just sit back and accept that cases might happen. Really don’t understand why classes for Grades 7-12 can’t use a hybrid approach and go part-time / staggered schedule for in-class time (up to 15 students / class max) and have them leave school to finish work at home online? Maintaining 6ft physical distancing and mask wearing should be mandated the same in schools as in all other indoor public spaces. If a classroom or space does not have adequate HVAC filters and ventilation then don’t use that space at all…find another space or venue that does! Classes could also be held in a larger space such as an auditorium or gym to maintain physical distancing (similar to college / tertiary education approach) and have students take the information provided by the teacher and complete assignments / work at home. Much prefer idea of minimizing the number of students and in-person contact hours in the school environment at any given time period to prevent spread of virus.

  4. Regarding the request for ‘Information on how inclusion affects planned “bubbles” of students’:

    I think the concern must be that students with disabilities/special needs often come and go from the classroom and increase the risk for classmates? Please consider:

    – All students in Nova Scotia belong to a class and classroom teacher first. Students with special needs also belong to the class “bubble.”

    – Many students come and go from the classroom for many reasons—learning centre, resource, specialists, guidance, social worker, nurse, EAL, Indigenous and African Nova Scotian student support workers, the office, the washroom; they leave for academic support, mental health support, personal safety, food, and (again) the washroom.

    – “Bubbles” sound safe but in reality there are hundreds of people in children’s classrooms each day. All students share all contacts of their classmates (family, friends, teammates, etc.). We can’t single out students with disabilities (whose additional school contacts are not necessarily more than the community contacts of their classmates anyway).

    – When we are fearful we often become intolerant of people. The students using the services above are often already marginalized in schools and our communities; it’s not acceptable to marginalize them further.

    We can advocate for a safe return for everyone’s children and support students’ continued access to services. The real issue is not that some students will come and go from class but that they return to a classroom with far too many students in far too small a poorly ventilated space—in direct contradiction to public health recommendations.

    Nova Scotia Parents for Public Schools does exceptional advocacy work for schools. I hope business leaders will support the group’s other demands and join this crucial effort to keep all students, all families, and all communities safe this fall.

  5. STAY THE BLAZES HOME until we have this problem really under control, that is what saved a lot of lives in the past months of Covet-19. Please do not gamble with the lives of our children, the risk is just to frightening.

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