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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