Nova Scotia

N.S. students have mixed feelings about decision to reopen schools this fall

A student who's going into Grade 12 at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, N.S., says he's nervous about the province's decision to bring all students and teachers back to classrooms this fall.

‘I think online learning is the best scenario,’ says student Coady Monk

Two Nova Scotia students have very different reactions to the news that all students and teachers will return to classrooms in September. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

A student who's going into Grade 12 at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, N.S., says he's nervous about the province's decision to bring all students and teachers back to classrooms this fall.

Nova Scotia's education minister announced Wednesday that students, from pre-primary to high school, will return to school as usual on Sept. 8. They'll be required to wear masks in hallways and on buses and stay further apart in classrooms.

The province also outlined contingency plans for blended and at-home learning if there's an outbreak of COVID-19. 

But Coady Monk said it feels too soon to bring all students back given it's been only eight days since a new case of COVID-19 was reported in the province.

"Charles P. Allen has over 1,500 students and trying to social distance in a classroom isn't going to work," Monk told CBC's Information Morning on Thursday. "I would love that teacher and student bonding and hands-on learning with extra help, but at this time I think online learning is the best scenario."

Coady Monk thinks the province should wait until there are fewer cases of COVID-19 being identified. 'As of right now, it's still very alive,' he said. (Submitted by Coady Monk)

He wants more details from the province about how it plans to deal with outbreaks or an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

That's a question the head of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union wants an answer to as well. 

"That remains completely unclear in Nova Scotia," Paul Wozney said Thursday. "And we believe that that information needs to be plain as day for parents, students and system staff before school ever opens."

Wozney is also wondering why students and staff will return at full capacity, which will make physically distancing difficult in many cases.

"One of the things I'm hearing overwhelmingly from parents, students and teachers is the sudden abandonment of a requirement for physical distancing," he said. "We've had it drummed into us for close to five months that physical distancing is sacrosanct. It's necessary. It's our civic duty … and then all of a sudden we're going back to school."

We asked two Grade 12 students what concerns them about going back to the classroom this September during the COVID-19 pandemic. 6:54

Citadel High student excited

But Bridget Noseworthy, who is going into Grade 12 at Citadel High School in Halifax, is happy she gets to return to in-person classes for her senior year.

"I'm really excited," she said. "I think it's going to be really weird with masks, and with socially distancing just because there's so many students, but … I think it's going to be still fun."

When you have to get up in the morning to go to school, you have more motivation and drive.- Bridget Noseworthy

She said it was hard to stay motivated when she was learning from home in front of a screen.

"When you have to get up in the morning to go to school, you have more motivation and drive to actually do the work," Noseworthy said. 

She said it will be up to high school students to be responsible for looking out for one another.

"Being smart, washing your hands, staying as far away as we can as possible, I think it could work," she said.

She's on the student council and is planning to run for co-president this coming school year. She's anxious to find out if extracurricular activities like sports will resume along with in-person classes.

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill says there's always going to be some risk with returning to school, but he doesn't want a generation of students to fall behind. (Canadian Press)

Education Minister Zach Churchill said some sports will be allowed to go ahead, but not all. The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation has submitted a plan that's now in the hands of public health, he said.

"We won't be able to do everything as we normally would and there will be a real focus on being outside as much as possible," Churchill said Thursday.

We don't want kids to fall behind, says minister

The decision to move to a blended learning model or have a complete return to at-home learning will be determined by public health, Churchill said, adding that families will be notified by phone and email.

He said one of the big differences this fall will be how the province responds to a potential outbreak. If there's a spike in cases at a particular school or a family of schools, the response will be targeted there and not all schools will be impacted. 

The province has released its back to school plan for September, but parents and teachers still have questions. We spoke with education minister Zach Churchill. 8:56

"We don't want a generation of kids to fall behind because of this COVID-19 virus hanging over our shoulder, right?" said Churchill.

"So it's about finding that balance between having a safe learning environment, but a learning environment that maximizes their ability to learn and teachers ability to teach."

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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