Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) President Paul Wozney says the past few months have been a lot of behind the scenes work.
“There’s a bunch of different balls in the air that people are having to juggle,” he says.
At this point, public schools only have one week of active instruction left, with June 5 being the last day. This means NSTU leaders and teachers across the province are now shifting their attention to the upcoming school year.
“Work is due to get started here in earnest in the next little while now that most of the details for this school year have been settled and people work towards the end,” he tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.
Wozney says that the last day for students to hand in assignments is the following Friday, June 12. But many teachers are working with students though to allow them to pass in work even after that date.
“In exceptional circumstances where we need to be more understand and flexible on guidelines,” he explains. “Teachers and principals have the ability to exercise their professional judgment there.”
Schools are also working with students to complete what Wozney calls “Operation Collect Your Stuff.” Most teachers are coordinating pickup on a by-appointment basis.
“The province has recommended that those appointments come after active instruction is over so that students and teachers are not consumed with trying to pack things in the bags, they can actually focus on learning and teaching,” says Wozney.
The NSTU president says there has been no shortage of feedback about e-learning and remote learning, and it has been hugely varied.
“There are some parents that are thrilled and some parents that are livid,” Wozney says.
But Wozney says that disparity existed long before COVID-19 hit, and that the pandemic has amplified the inequalities that exist between teachers.
“Not just students, but 30 per cent of Nova Scotians don’t have internet access, and that applies to teachers too,” he says.
Wozney says that all teachers want to provide the best for their students, but some are adapting to teach in vastly different ways than others.
“Some of it includes very personal circumstances of teachers right now. These really were never an issue when you’re teaching in a brick and mortar setting,” he adds. “Unfortunately in some cases, there are teachers that are not able to provide the same as some of their colleagues because of things that are completely beyond their control.”
Looking towards September, the NSTU says they have to adhere to the directives that come from Public Health. But they are hoping to see a plan sooner, rather than later.
As much advance notice as possible is beneficial to all Nova Scotians. This is not a system you can turn on a dime,” says Wozney. “So, our ask has been let’s get to work, let’s try to have an initial framework out hopefully by the end of school or early summer.”
But if schools do return to in-person learning, Wozney says the province has to be cautious, as places like Quebec and South Korea have seen outbreaks in schoolchildren.
"What happens if, after doing our very best and respecting all those things we still end up in a really bad spot with COVID rearing its ugly head, how do we close schools down again and how do we transition to remote learning once again?" he says.
“Nobody wants to be teaching from home and students don’t want to be learning from home, but really we have to have a model that’s responsive to a downturn in COVID transmission if it occurs. It’s something we really can’t turn a blind eye to.”