With case numbers of COVID-19 escalating among school aged children and with new many variants in the province, the risk has clearly increased, says Lisa deMolitor, chairperson of the Nova Scotia School Board Council of Unions, representing approximately 4,500 school support staff. However, the government has not done enough in response to reduce the risk.
“The closure of schools, or families of schools, is only contemplated after the virus is present in a school. That is not a precautionary measure, nor is it the only step that could be taken to keep our schools safe.”
There are actions that could be implemented provincewide in the schools that are still open, to enhance safety such as:
- Further limiting and reducing the movement of students throughout the school
- Suspending activities such as gym and band, where masks are being removed
- Suspending sports practices and games, as students will not be wearing masks and/or breathing heavily, producing more respiratory droplets
- Suspending use of school premises by community groups. Use of a school for anything other than learning encourages the movement of the virus and increases risk for school support staff who will encounter more people and who must clean up after them.
“While Nova Scotia Public Health makes many of the decisions that affect our schools, they are not the only body that can take steps to reduce risk,” adds deMolitor. “From an occupational health and safety standpoint, the Centres of Education also have a responsibility as employers and can choose to take additional measures to keep students and staff safe.”
“We recognize there is no easy answer and additional precautionary measures will be a further burden on students, but we fear that if schools are to remain open in regions of the province where community spread is now occurring, more preventative measures need be taken, to reduce the risk for students and the staff, teaching and non-teaching, that support them,” says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen.
“We’re encouraged by the news that the Province can now process 15,000 tests daily, as compared to 200 tests a year ago,” says McFadgen.
“We would like to express our gratitude to everyone in health care who is working hard to perform testing and vaccinations,” says McFadgen. “We would also like to thank our members – and all workers in Nova Scotia – who are providing services that we all depend on.”