Nova Scotia

Strang says online learning here to stay for at least a few more weeks

Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang says public health staff will continue to monitor the COVID-19 epidemiology of communities to determine when it is safe to allow students, teachers and staff to begin returning to classrooms.

N.S. schools initially closed for two weeks as part of provincewide lockdown

Students in many parts of Canada have been learning from home. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Students doing at-home online learning in Nova Scotia might want to make sure they have an extra-comfortable chair.

The province's chief medical officer of health says even if recent lockdown measures in Nova Scotia begin to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases, there will not be a return to in-person learning in the immediate future.

"I certainly don't see schools opening in the next week or the week after," Dr. Robert Strang said during Monday's COVID-19 news conference.

A week ago, Strang shut down schools and most businesses as part of a provincewide lockdown aimed at harnessing a surge of COVID-19 cases. The so-called circuit-breaker approach was initially intended for at least two weeks.

Dr. Robert Strang says he doesn't see students and teachers returning to classrooms for at least a couple of weeks. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Now it appears more time will be necessary. Strang said on Monday that public health staff would continue to monitor the epidemiology of communities for signs of progress, to determine when it is safe to allow students, teachers and staff to begin returning to classrooms.

"Getting kids back in school, in-school learning, has been one of our priorities throughout the whole pandemic and it will be a priority as we start to look at when we can reopen things," he said.

"But it can only be done when we are in a position where we have low risk in communities, which then creates safe schools."

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney said at-home learning hasn't been perfect, but it's better than it was a year ago.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney says challenges remain with at-home learning, but so far colleagues are reporting a better experience than a year ago. (David Laughlin/CBC)

In an interview on Tuesday, Wozney said teachers have benefited from professional development throughout the year focused on at-home learning, as well as having a week without students following the Christmas holiday to further focus on efforts.

"I think there's a greater comfort level overall within the profession," he said. "It's not perfect, but it is significantly different."

Something else that's improved the experience this time compared to last year is efforts to bridge the digital divide among students, said Wozney. The province spent millions of dollars in federal COVID relief funds on computers that students could take home if classes reverted to online learning, and Wozney said that has helped address some of the challenges that existed this time last year.

Still, with many parents home with their children trying to balance their own work with the education needs of their kids, Wozney is wary of burnout eventually setting in.

"It's a real strain for families, even families that may have some background in some kind of education," he said. "It's a lot to juggle, parenting, working and trying to support your kids from home."