A safe return to school is possible
August 29, 2020
Education workers, parents and students alike are concerned about the return to school in September.
Teachers want to be back in their classrooms. Kids are tired of staring at phone and computer screens. Parents are eager to return to life as normal.
But we’re not convinced that our governments are doing all they can to keep our school communities safe during this pandemic. As NSTU president Paul Wozney has emphasized: the current plan is simply not good enough.
We’re told we have to “learn to live with COVID-19.” This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that those of us who spend our days in schools should compromise our safety for the abstract goal of re-starting the economy.
The province has received more than $48 million from the federal government specifically to help with the safe return to school – yet there’s no indication that this money will be spent to ensure the most important measure for containing the spread of COVID-19: reducing class sizes to allow for physical distancing.
We know there are effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – in particular, physical distancing; and avoiding spending long periods in closed, poorly ventilated areas with large groups of people.
Why then are so many educational authorities across the country forcing students and school staff into exactly these conditions?
Along with reductions to class sizes, properly functioning ventilation systems, and mask use (thankfully, most school authorities have now said they will require and support students to wear masks to school), there are other, complementary measures such as rapid COVID-19 testing, paid sick days for all workers (so parents can stay home with sick children) and even rent and mortgage freezes would allow families to make decisions about school based on the best interests of their children, not economic desperation.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequities in our society for all to see: those who can work from home and those who can’t; those with and without access to technology; people with easy access to outdoor space and those without.
If plans to reopen schools are unsafe, it’s the marginalized in society who risk the most – those children who must come to school because their parents have no choice but to return to work in order to survive.
Governments are concerned about deficits and their bottom line. But our province and our country do have the means to ensure a safe return to school for all – not to mention to ensure that all Nova Scotians are fed and have a comfortable place to call home.
In February, when the NS Liberal government decided to cut corporate taxes, it found $80 million dollars. In March, when the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor, Maine needed an upgrade, the government found another $8.5 million.
A modest wealth tax on Nova Scotia’s four billionaires would barely be felt, but could yield millions for provincial coffers.
Safe schools are possible. Let’s demand them.
Safe September Assembly NS: Monday, August 10th 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Since the Nova Scotia government released their back-to-school plan last month, there have been many questions about the logistics: from how public health guidelines will be enforced, to equity for all students in the event of future closures.
Educators for Social Justice NS would like to invite you to a peaceful assembly with an aim of publicly demonstrating the scope of questions and concerns that school staff, students, and families have as they prepare to return to classrooms and hallways in 4 short weeks.
Our hope is that government will see that this touches so many of us, and that we would like them to use the time remaining to fully inform us of their plans and resources to keep everyone safe while learning.
We are eager to get back to our classrooms, but no one wants to be a casualty of inadequate preparation and resources, nor do we want the families of Nova Scotia to suffer the illness or loss of a loved one when there is time to adapt.
See posts on the Facebook event for information on satellite assemblies, protocols, and messaging.
We hope you’ll join us and spread the word.
Social Justice Education Symposium, Planting the Seeds for Our Future Liberation
Regretfully, this event has been postponed as a result of the situation with Covid-19. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have purchased a ticket and are in need of a refund.
Please join us for our second annual Social Justice Education Symposium! This year’s theme is “Planting the Seeds for Our Future Liberation”. The goal of this year’s symposium is to offer workshops and sessions where citizens can participate in a collective imagining of what school for inclusion and decolonization could look like here in Mi’kma’ki, and begin planting the seeds for our collective liberation.
Tickets can be purchased online via Eventbrite for $25 each. In the interest of making the event accessible to all, please consider sponsoring additional attendees as an “add on”. Reduced rates are available for students and others at the door, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
For more information on this event, please visit our dedicated page.
Manifesto for Progressive Education
Educators for Social Justice and Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education
On Wednesday January 15, 2020, Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education released a co-authored Manifesto for Progressive Education.
The goal of the Manifesto is to promote progressive public education in this province, identify challenges, and consider solutions.
Download the manifesto here.
KEEP HATE OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS
A statement from Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia
During election season, teachers of all levels seize the opportunity to learn about politics.
Many students have the opportunity to hear first-hand from politicians running to represent them in Parliament. More than a million students across the country will participate in the Student Vote program, and many will host candidates’ forums in their schools.
Regrettably, in this election cycle some politicians are spreading particularly hateful messages regarding immigrants, refugees, LBGT people, and others, and promoting climate-change denial. In Nova Scotia, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) and the National Citizens’ Alliance (NCA) are running candidates in several ridings. Both parties use rhetoric ranging from explicit hatred to more subtle but familiar “dog-whistle” phrases targeting marginalized groups.
These candidates should not be invited into our schools. It is incumbent upon us as educators in a public system not to provide platforms where these politicians can promote harm to our students and their families.
Some well-meaning observers might ask “but what about free speech?”
Free speech does not mean that anyone may say anything at any time. Institutions like public schools have the responsibility to filter out speech that may incite discrimination and violence, or that is based in faulty or misleading pseudoscience.
Our centres for education (formerly school boards) have anti-discrimination policies such as this one. All schools in the province are subject to the provincial Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students.
It’s one thing for politicians to express their hateful and unscientific views online, or out in the broader political world. It’s another thing for our public schools to legitimize them by inviting them to speak at assemblies of children.
We encourage teachers to explore the world of politics with their students, but to be mindful of what information we choose to share – just as we would expect of our students.
Our students and their families – especially those from marginalized communities – trust us to create a safe and welcoming environment for all. This is not to be taken lightly.
EDIT (October 9th): Some principals have sent teachers a directive that “All candidates [a] district/riding must be invited” if any one candidate is invited. This is apparently coming from higher up. It’s disturbing that the Department of Education would decree this in this context, but teachers should know that the directive is out there (and that technically one could face discipline for not following what is apparently provincial policy).