Dozens of promised support positions unfilled as start of school approaches
'We're not going to stop the hiring process until the positions are filled,' says Zach Churchill
Less than two weeks before the start of class the Nova Scotia Education Department is still looking to fill dozens of new positions it created to give students who require extra help the resources they need.
Three months ago, Education Minister Zach Churchill promised to hire 191 people in various support and specialist roles as part of a $15-million effort to help with complex classroom needs.
But province has yet to fill 48 of those positions. They include:
- 28 educational assistants or child youth care practitioners
- 11 parent navigators
- four student health partnership nurses
- three specialist teachers
- two psychologists/speech pathologists
According to the Department of Education, the seven regional centres for education and the francophone school board are still hiring people and expect to find all the educational assistants and child youth care practitioners they need by Sept. 4.
However, the province still hasn't started looking to fill the navigator positions, which are intended to help families access programs and services. The Education Department plans to advertise the job soon.
The Department of Health is still in the process of hiring the four student nurses. The jobs are posted and applications close Aug. 27.
Churchill said the goal remains to fill all the positions by the end of September, which is normally when schools have their final enrolment numbers.
"We're not going to stop the hiring process until the positions are filled, and I believe that we're going to have these positions filled by the end of September," he said. The minister called it the normal hiring timeline for public schools.
But that's not the way interim PC Leader Karla MacFarlane sees it. She said families were promised help and it should be there when school starts.
"I'm not surprised at all, just very disappointed like many other Nova Scotians and in particular parents, of course," she said.
The concern, she said, is parents who are expecting extra help for their children might not receive it. The government should have been better prepared, she said.
"They should not have made the announcement knowing, no doubt, that they couldn't fill all those positions," she said.
But that's not the case, according to Churchill: "We're getting reassurances from those who are responsible for doing the hiring that we're going to have these people in place on the timeline that we committed."
MacFarlane said the minister has likely set his expectations too high and it will become clear in the next couple of weeks if he can fulfil them.
"I really hope he can, but once again they went out and delivered a message that perhaps may not be met."
The province has been able to deliver on another inclusion-related support — the addition of a second Achieve program class at Dartmouth's Akerley campus of the Nova Scotia Community College and a new offering at the Pictou campus.
The program focuses on life skills. Although there's still room in Pictou, the Dartmouth classes are already full this September.
In all, the NSCC said extra funding from the province has allowed it to create 25 additional seats in the program.