Nova Scotia

N.S. looks to reduce school storm days

With storm days piling up, public schools in Nova Scotia could end up opening later in the day instead of shutting down next winter.

With storm days piling up, public schools in Nova Scotia could end up opening later in the day instead of shutting down next winter.

The recommendation comes out of a provincial report, released on Wednesday, that is supposed to help school boards prepare for storms and make up for lost class time.

"If we lose four or five days in a year, no one's going to notice. That's normal. If you lose up to 10 days by January and you're looking at the rest of the winter, as they did last year, people are going to think about it differently," said consultant Jim Gunn, a former school board superintendent.

The winter of 2008-09 was particularly bad for school boards, which reported more storm days than usual, according to Gunn's report.

Six of seven boards had at least eight system-wide storm days, including two that had more than 10. The Tri-County Regional School Board had three. There was no data available for the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.

Gunn said he hopes his report serves as a launching pad to more discussions, but he came up with six general recommendations:

  • Improve communication so that parents, media know how storm day decisions are made.
  • Develop consistent terminology for school cancellations.
  • Share resources, such as hourly weather forecasts and road webcams.
  • Develop contingency plans, such as preparing learning packages for students or opening schools later in the day if weather improves.
  • Talk to teachers about using snow days to "collaborate professionally."
  • Deal with concerns of board employees affected by school cancellations.

Education Minister Marilyn More said the report will help the school boards update their storm policies.

Gunn suggests the boards come up with solutions after consulting with communities.

"This is not something that needs to be decided and announced by a government or a board," he said. "It needs to involve those people most affected by it, and those would be the students and the families and the staff in schools."

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