Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia students head back to class today

Students across Nova Scotia are heading back into classrooms Tuesday, and while some COVID-19 precautions remain in effect, routines will resemble pre-pandemic times more than they did last September.

Masks remain mandatory until the province enters Phase 5 of reopening plan

Children's backpacks hang on desk chairs in this file photo. Students return to Nova Scotia classrooms on Tuesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Students across Nova Scotia are heading back into classrooms Tuesday, and while some COVID-19 precautions remain in effect, routines will resemble pre-pandemic times more than they did last September.

The main public health measure that will remain in schools for the time being is masking. Masks will be required for anyone inside school buildings or on buses, except when eating, drinking or participating in physical activity.

Regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces will continue and hand sanitizer will be made readily available.

Gone are restrictions to music classes, band, sports and extracurricular activities. Students will have unfettered access to lockers and cubbies.

In-province field trips will resume, and out-of-province field trips will be allowed with approval from administrators. International field trips are still off the table.

There will be ongoing inspections and maintenance of school ventilation systems. Fans can help circulate fresh air, following protocols developed by experts from Public Health, the IWK Health Centre and the Department of Environment.

At-home learning still part of contingency plan

At-home learning procedures will remain on standby in case the province's COVID-19 epidemiology changes. A transition to at-home learning, though unexpected at this time, could be applied to an individual class, school, family of schools or region.

The back-to-school plan was released last month shortly after the Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election. At the time, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Tim Houston set Sept. 15 as the target date for entering Phase 5 of Nova Scotia's reopening plan. Once the province enters Phase 5, the mask mandate will be lifted from schools.

However, Phase 5 is contingent on 75 per cent of the population having both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the rate of two-dose coverage has been increasing slowly. As of Friday — the most recent date reported by the province — 71.4 per cent of the province was fully vaccinated. At that time, there were 55 known active cases of COVID-19 in the province.

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