August 25, 2021
Re: Back to school in Nova Scotia
Administrators were eagerly awaiting the release of the Back to School Plan and appreciate that it is now available ( https://backtoschool.ednet.ns.ca/ ). Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PSAANS has been directly involved in the Learning Continuity Plan meetings with staff of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. We have been able to share the perspective of administrators and provide feedback to the plan throughout the pandemic. These connections have enabled us to bring forward the perspective of public school and system leaders in Nova Scotia while they addressed challenges that have never been faced before by our school systems. As we prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, we continue to believe in the importance of following the advice of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for guidance and procedures for dealing with COVID-19.
We are hopeful that this year’s return to school will be enjoyed in the more typical atmosphere of celebration and excitement that marks new beginnings. While there are still public health measures in place, the Back to School Plan contemplates much greater freedom and a return to the activities that make public schools the vibrant communities that they are. Masks have played a significant role to protect us while allowing a level of freedom and gatherings to happen safely. With an anticipated shift to Phase 5 and even fewer mandatory restrictions, we believe it is important to consider the effect of masks on schools with children under 12 years of age.
Dr. Strang has repeatedly expressed that we will all have to learn to live with the presence of COVID-19 and that pervasive vaccination is a key strategy to achieving the necessary protection to do so with a high degree of freedom. We encourage everyone who is able, to do their part in supporting Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan and continued testing strategies. We believe that our schools are safe when our communities are safe.
As communicated in Monday’s news conference, it is expected that there will be changes in the response from public health when there are cases of COVID-19 connected to schools. We understand that the response will be determined on a case by case, and site by site basis, in consideration of the epidemiology and circumstances, and that the response may not include a temporary school closure. Given this change we ask that the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development communicates information regarding how these shifts may unfold so that schools and communities are prepared for a more individualized response.
As always, for schools and school systems to be effective, they must be supported with adequate resources to implement the plan to ensure a safe return to school for all students and staff. We are optimistic that these conditions exist, and will persist as our province navigates this school year and the next chapters of the pandemic.