Nova Scotia

PCs detail what Nova Scotia classrooms should look like in September amid COVID-19

Nova Scotia's Minister of Education, Zach Churchill, doesn't have a plan yet for the new school year, but he's willing to pass along suggestions being made by the Official Opposition to the people working on it.

Party proposes P-5 students resume in-class studies, grades 6-12 adopt hybrid model that includes e-learning

PC Leader Tim Houston says parents and students need to know what the plan is for the upcoming school year so they can prepare accordingly. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's Official Opposition presented its vision Wednesday for what the upcoming school year should look like, and the party is calling on the governing Liberals to detail their plan.

The Tories are proposing that if the school year begins as it normally does in September, students in grades Primary to 5 would attend in-person classes capped at 15 apiece. Students in grades 6 to 12 would attend in-person classes two to three days a week, and work from home on the other weekdays.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston made the suggestions in an email to Premier Stephen McNeil, which he shared with reporters in the parking lot outside Province House on Wednesday.

"Other provinces have been focused on September since as far back as April," said Houston. "Nova Scotians and parents have the right to know that there's a thoughtful plan in place for the restart of the school year."

He said the delay was not justified.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said he will pass the PC's suggestions along to officials working on the plan for Nova Scotia's classrooms. (CBC)

"It's not fair to wait until August or July even to tell people what to expect and how to prepare," he said. "You have to let them know what's happening sooner.

"The government has a responsibility to give parents clarity so they can begin to prepare and they can prepare their students for what they can expect."

The McNeil government has not yet said what the new school year might look like, but has repeatedly assured parents and their children that it's working on a plan.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said Houston's suggestions would be passed along to officials.

"We're happy to provide that submission to the table that's working on our plans for September, but more important for me is the feedback that we're getting from parents, students, teachers and administrators," he said.

Gathering feedback

Churchill said they recently received 22,000 surveys from parents, and said they're also getting feedback from students, teachers and administrators.

"That's really the most important feedback for me, is from the people who lived through the experience of learning from at home," he said.

Churchill expects the school plan will be ready to be communicated to the public by the end of July.

What the PC plan looks like

The PC plan also includes:

  • Having individual schools submit site-specific health and safety protocol to public health for approval by Aug. 1.
  • Offering teachers training over the summer if they need or want it, particularly with technology.
  • Considering dropping provincial exams.
  • Realigning the curriculum to focus on literacy, math, critical thinking and experiential learning.
  • Hiring extra staff to handle the increased number of classes due to smaller class sizes.
  • Making computers, tablets or other electronic devices available to students who don't have them.
  • Meeting with parents of students with diverse needs to determine the best options for learning.
  • Running buses at half capacity and increasing the number of runs if necessary.

Churchill said it was too soon to say whether classes would resume next fall.

"Depending on the epidemiology of the virus, that's going to determine how many kids we're gonna be able to have in our learning institutions, if any at all. But that's the unknown right now," he said.

Although the premier's office rejected the PC call for an all-party committee to co-ordinate Nova Scotia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, McNeil has said his office has been keeping opposition parties apprised of his government's plans. Houston characterized those "staff level" meetings as a "one-way discussion."