Back to School FAQ


<< Back to School

Updated: July 27, 2020

Health & Safety

What measures will be in place to ensure the safety of students and staff?

First is the obvious one, good hand hygiene. Students and staff will be required to clean their hands as they enter the school and before and after eating and throughout the day. There will be enhanced cleaning procedures and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned throughout the day. In the younger grades, we are asking classes to stay together. There will be staggered recess, and lots of outdoor play and exercise. Non-essential furniture will be removed or moved aside in classrooms to ensure desks are spaced out. Students and staff are asked to self-monitor and stay home if they feel ill. There will be a “no-sharing policy” in place, meaning students will not be able to share school supplies. If tech equipment is used, it will need to be cleaned between uses. There will be few visitors in the school, and only for essential purposes. Parents will need to drop off their children outside the school.

What happens if there is a COVID-19 case at school? Will the school be closed? Will everyone be tested?

If there is a case, Public Health will be notified immediately, and they will advise the school and region as to next steps. In consultation with public health, schools will follow the Public Health Guidance for Schools.

Will students or staff be sent home if they feel ill? Who makes that decision?

If people feel ill, they will need to go home. For younger children, there will be a space at school to isolate until they can be taken home. Staff can remain with younger children if they wear appropriate PPE. The school will document who came into contact with the individual and bubble those individuals to limit potential spread.

Will you do temperature checks in the morning?

No, students and staff and families will be asked to stay home if they are not feeling well. There will be a screening tool for families and children, much like we have for child care. Schools are not required to physically screen children.

Not everyone can wear a mask. Will students and staff who cannot wear one be required to produce proof from a physician?

There may be a small number of students with sensory or health issues who may not be able to tolerate wearing a mask. Parents of these students are asked to consult with the school to develop a plan for their children.

Will mask use be mandatory in schools? Who will need to wear them?

We are taking our lead from Public Health. As Public Health has been saying, masks are used when physical distancing isn’t possible. At this time, high school students and teachers will be required to wear masks in hallways and common areas. On buses, all students will be required to wear a mask unless there is a medical reason for not doing so. Teachers and students may wear masks if they wish.

Will masks be provided to every student?

It is recommended that students bring and wear their own masks. Masks will be provided to those students who do not have one. Information about non-medical masks can be found on the government website, https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/staying-healthy/#masks.

Parents / Students

Are children allowed to use playground equipment?

Currently, playground equipment can be used by children. Public Health will advise us if we need to restrict playground access. Students will be required to clean hands before entering the school.

What about assessment? Will my child receive a report card? Marks?

Instruction and assessment go hand in hand. Teachers will provide feedback to students on their learning and that helps to inform next steps in instruction. It is important for students and parents to understand where a child is at in their learning. Report cards will be issued for all subjects as in previous school years. Parents are encouraged to sign up for the Parent portal in PowerSchool as it is easier for parents to see posted information and receive e-report cards.

Will all sports be available to students?

The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation is planning sports consistent with Sport Nova Scotia guidelines approved by Public Heath. The NSSAF plan for school sports will be provided to schools and families when it is complete.

Your plan outlines three options. When will you know which option will be the plan for September? What are the triggers for moving from one scenario to another?

We are planning to open schools with students returning. Any change at the school, regional or provincial level will be at the direction from Public Health. Remember, our approach is dependent on the state of COVID-19 in our communities. We are taking a flexible and precise approach. If there are no or few active cases, children will be in classes. If there are cases in a particular community, we may close certain schools at the request of Public Health while keeping most schools open around the province. Our plan is flexible and responsive.

Will students participate in all subject areas including physical education and music, if in-person class resumes?

We will offer all subject areas, including music and phys ed. They may just look different. We are working with Public Health on a plan that will allow students to safely engage in these subjects.

Is it safe for children to return to school?

We are taking our direction from Public Health, and advice from pediatricians and psychologists at the IWK. The best place for children is in the classroom, for their emotional, mental, social, and physical development. Younger children are moving as part of one classroom in the school, as part of a cohort or bubble. Older children and staff are required to wear masks in hallways and common areas. Classrooms are being set up so space between desks is maximized.

If we move to some version of at-home learning, what will you do to ensure students are able to receive adequate education? In the spring, not all families had access to technology or Internet?

We recognize that there were challenges with at-home learning in the Spring. We heard from parents that we needed to do better, and we are. We received over 28,000 surveys from parents, guardians and students regarding the at-home learning experience and needs and suggestions for improvement. Using this feedback, and the feedback from teachers, this year there will be enhanced expectations for teachers related to online education. Those expectations are being developed and will be shared in the next few weeks. We are also planning an extensive roll-out of tech equipment for students who do not have a device or have limited access to a device. Over 14,000 new and refurbished devices have been ordered for this Fall. For those without internet, they will be able to access schools if we move to a blended learning model. If students are learning at home, we will utilize the USB delivery system trialled during at-home learning in the spring.

My child missed so much learning in the spring. How will schools / teachers ensure my child does not fall behind and miss important parts of education?

This September, teachers will work with students to understand what they know and what they don’t know. This type of review happens every September. Teachers who need more support to do this work have access to online professional learning and resources. This year, there will be more emphasis on review. It is built into our Back to School Plan.

My child developed COVID and must remain at home for two weeks, how will they learn?

If a student is required to isolate or develops a health condition, supports will be provided to learn from home.

Throughout the school year there are various events and parent meetings, what will happen with assemblies, concerts, special events, curriculum night and parent teacher night? Will these go forward?

There will continue to be school events, they might however look different. Parent-teacher meetings may be by phone or video conference, school assemblies will be on the intercom or through video. As changes are made in public health restrictions we will continue to look at what is feasible for schools.

My child is immunocompromised and can’t attend school. How will they be educated?

In our consultation with IWK, we know that a very small number of children will not be able to attend school. There are existing processes in place to deal with these rare situations. Students unable to attend school will receive learning materials at home. Those discussions will take place between families and their school.

Pre-Primary

Is Pre-Primary moving ahead? Won’t there be challenges ensuring children remain physically distance?

We are moving ahead with our commitment to Pre-Primary. We worked extensively with Public Health and IWK on the re-opening of licenced child care. Similar principles and best practices including extensive hand washing and cleaning of high-touch surfaces will apply to pre-primary children.

Teachers

If you move to a blended learning model, and you need to add more classes for younger children, how will you find enough teachers?

Providing safe learning environments is a shared responsibility. If we move to blended learning, we will continue to provide a rich education experience, but it may look different. We have existing capacity in the school system. A number of teachers are assigned to other duties in the school system, either working on curriculum at the regional level, or working on projects in the department. Regions and the CSAP have worked on the required space and staffing assignments to ensure that blended learning can be effectively implemented. School principals will communicate the specific plans for their school with the school community in the fall.

Can teachers refuse to work if they feel their health and safety is compromised?

There are rules governing workplace health and safety. Public Health is telling us that staff and students can return to school. We have put in place measures to reduce risk. We have worked closely with all of our unions on the Back to School Plan.

Bussing

Is there a plan to bus students come September?

Yes, students will be bussed as per existing practices but will be required to wear masks on the busses.

What happens if a student refuses to wear a mask on the bus (and in school)? Who monitors the rules on the bus?

We know that wearing a mask may be a new experience for children, and that’s why education and communication will be key in helping kids understand why it’s needed and how to wear it. We need parents and guardians and teachers to work with kids on getting used to it. We know it may take time for some students, and some students will have medical reasons for not wearing a mask. We are asking that families speak to their children, practice as part of usual getting ready for school routine. Our specialists are developing videos and tips for helping parents prepare their children for a different kind of school year.

Students who need additional supports

If a stay-at-home order is issued and all students are required to stay home, will this include licensed childcare?

That’s up to Public Health. We will defer to the orders and decisions of Public Health regarding closure of regulated businesses for health reasons.

What did you learn from the parent and student surveys?

We heard that parents wanted more structure to at-home learning. Some struggled with technology and internet access. There was a wide difference to the amount of learning and supports that people experienced. So we are dealing with these issues, And planning for how to support students who do not have access. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has invested $4 million to acquire 14000 more devices that will be distributed to regions to support needs. Clear expectations for at home teaching and learning have been developed with our partners in response to the feedback from parents, students and teachers and will be shared so that everyone knows what to expect and what to do if there are struggles.

How will you offer food programs, like the breakfast program?

These programs will continue to be offered, but, like many other things will be done differently. We recognize the importance of these programs to many of our students and have a team of educators and health professionals working on the logistics to continue to support this in our schools for September.

This has been a difficult time for students, what mental health and other supports are in place to support their return to school? What supports will be in place if we move to at-home learning?

We are taking steps to ensure that students who need additional supports continue to receive services no matter what stage of learning we are in. Obviously if everyone is back to school, there will be no change in service. In our blended model, all children receiving special services will be able to go to school even if their class or cohort is staying home. If we move to learning at-home, we will continue to provide services through conference calls, video and other online technologies.