1 February 2021
NS Parent Group has Numerous Concerns With Education Minister’s Inaction on a Range of Issues
HALIFAX, NS, February 2021 — Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education is expressing disappointment with the lack of leadership and accountability from Education Minister Zach Churchill regarding health and safety in Nova Scotia Schools. Since the 2018 dissolution of the English-language school boards following the Glaze Report, the Minister has been the sole trustee of schools, and publicly stated that he would be a direct link to Nova Scotians for their concerns and questions.
“Parents still have questions about lead in the water supply; and we are not getting answers to our questions about ventilation in schools,” says Stacey Rudderham, a founding member of NSP4PE. “We have the highest provincial child poverty rate in the country, and our Minister thinks it’s a joke to tell teachers to crack a window to improve airflow.”
Rudderham says that parents are upset over the extra time their children are missing because every cold needs a COVID test, which can take 3 extra days, and wonders if the Minister’s refusal to adjust classroom structure is at fault. She also says teachers have approached her with reports that they suffer from headaches daily at work, “But when they were home over the Christmas break, those headaches disappeared. It’s wrong of the Minister to assume that everything is fine, just because case numbers are low. Stress levels are high, and it’s taking a toll on everyone.”
“Low case numbers are a result of Public Health protocols, and community vigilance. The Minister has nothing to be proud of in terms of action he could have taken, or transparency with the public.”
Adam Davies, another member of the NSP4PE Steering Committee says that he sees and feels the frustration that parents have with Minister Churchill’s hiding act. “In the fall we got a report about the extent of lead in the water at our schools, but we have yet to hear about remediation.” Davies is also concerned by the missing ventilation report, considering Nova Scotians were promised that all units in public schools were inspected before everyone returned to the classroom in September. “Now the Minister is a week late releasing the report that we expected to have been completed four months ago. Parents have been asking for months and just told no.”
Davies has a unique perspective on the administration of these issues, having served on the former Chignecto-Central Regional School Board before it and other boards were dissolved. “As a public trustee, we had to answer to families about concerns as they came up. We didn’t have the option to ignore requests for interviews, or send form letters to constituents. They showed up at meetings, and confronted us in person. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the job he’s supposed to be doing in our place.”
Both Rudderham and Davies say the message from parents is clear: take concerns about ventilation and safe drinking water seriously, and respond to the people who are looking for answers.
“If we don’t have school boards to approach,” says Rudderham, “and the Minister isn’t addressing our concerns as parents and caregivers, we’re in a very poor position to actually fix the problems.
“These aren’t niche issues. There are more than 130,000 students in public schools in this province. They deserve accountability.”
Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education was started in 2016 by parents concerned with the government’s deteriorating relationship with teachers. They have almost 18,000 members on Facebook, and use their platform to promote and protect public education.