Rankin should not roll the dice by reopening Nova Scotia schools this semester

The union representing workers at child care centres and all regional centres for education across the province is calling Premier Iain Rankin’s plan to reopen schools, while two regions are still under lockdown, as risky and unmanageable.

CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen says, “I’m glad we’re hitting vaccine targets and children age 12 and older are now eligible for vaccination. However, the Premier has changed his plans 180 degrees from Monday to today. Why now? What is there to be gained?”

“For the Province to say that schools have not been a significant source of COVID-19 transmission, well we can’t be entirely sure that is the case,” says Lisa deMolitor, chair of the Nova Scotia School Board Council of Unions. “The data on active cases linked to schools that is available on the Department’s website today does not line up with the information they provided to us over the previous 30-day period.”

On June 2, staff and students will be returning to all schools at the Western and Northern region centres for education. Several schools, but not all, are reopening at the Cape Breton-Victoria and Chignecto-Central regional centres for education, as well as the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (see the complete list). At the Halifax Regional Centre for Education all schools will remain closed.

“Once again there’s been no communication with frontline workers. We only learned that these schools would be reopening 20 minutes before today’s announcement and our employers have yet to address work plans with staff. Not with cleaners, not with maintenance workers, not with bus drivers – no one,” says deMolitor.

The Province stated that there will be “some exceptions for students with highly complex needs” and that families will be contacted next week with details. As well, Public Health and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will continue to assess in-person classes for other HRM and Sydney students.

“The premier is saying there will be a plan, but they’re moving ahead without one. June 2 is Wednesday, five days from now. That lack of planning impacts the educational assistants and child youth/youth care practitioners, and the students they support,” adds deMolitor.

Conspicuously missing at today’s briefing was any mention of the fact that child care centres are moving to 100% capacity (from the current 60% maximum), without consultation and without a plan. Meanwhile, the Province remains secretive about the number of child care related COVID-19 cases. “There have been cases related to child care centres in the last couple of weeks, but the Province still refuses to reveal information in the same way that they share it about schools,” says McFadgen.

About CUPE

CUPE Nova Scotia is the second largest union in the province with more than 19,000 members.

CUPE’s education locals, known collectively as the Nova Scotia School Board Council of Unions, represent over 3,500 members working for all seven Regional Centres of Education and the Conseil scolaire acadien, in all public schools across Nova Scotia.

CUPE represents approximately 200 early childhood educators working in child care centres in Halifax and Bridgewater.