COVID-19: Province announces Back-to-School plan

Premier-designate Tim Houston at the COVID-19 briefing on Aug. 23. (Communications N.S. Photo)

HALIFAX: Core public health measures will be in place as students return to school on Sept. 7 with a return to a more familiar routine, the province announced at a COVID-19 briefing on Aug. 23.

Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan requires a commitment to vaccination and staying home if unwell, as well as ongoing hand sanitization, use of masks and continued cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

Additional public health measures will be introduced if COVID-19 case numbers rise.

As the school year begins, masks are required at all times for anyone inside a school building or bus. They can be removed when the person is eating and drinking, participating in physical activity, and for breaks where people are physically distanced.

As the province enters Phase 5 of its reopening plan, schools will transition to masks being optional.

“Our schools are as safe as our communities and thanks to safe and effective vaccines, and Nova Scotians rolling up their sleeves, our schools have an additional layer of protection this year that will allow students to have a much more normal year,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.

“We continue to have core public health measures in place to protect everyone in our schools, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, staying home if you’re sick and sanitizing high-touch surfaces.”



In September, students, families and staff can expect:
— full in-class learning with the associated academic, social and emotional supports
— continued use of outdoor learning, small-group instruction, and enhanced use of technology
— full resumption of music classes, band, sports, use of cafeterias, lockers and cubbies, extra-curricular activities and community use of gyms, following core public health measures
— ongoing inspections and maintenance of school ventilation systems
— school counsellors, SchoolsPlus staff, and others will continue to provide timely and appropriate mental health supports to students
— schools will create supportive environments for those who choose to wear a mask once the province enters Phase 5
— non-essential visitors will be permitted (following all safety protocols), although virtual meetings and visits are still encouraged
— parents and guardians of pre-primary and Primary students will be able to visit schools on their child’s first day

If enhanced public health measures are required and students move to at-home learning, learning from home will look similar to the approach used in 2020-21.



Like last year, the plan for the 2021-2022 school year was created with significant input – direction and guidance from public health officials, advice from Provincial Paediatric Advisory Group, feedback from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and support unions, the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia (PSAANS), support staff and teachers, survey results from parents and guardians, and recommendations from other key partners.

Quotes:
“This pandemic has illustrated the importance of keeping our children and youth in school, where they have access to supports and programs that benefit their learning, as well as their social, physical and mental well-being. Thanks to our parents, students and dedicated teachers and administrators, Nova Scotia’s education system has fared well through COVID-19. I’m confident this plan – with its appropriate guidance around masking — supports a safe return to class. Our Provincial Pediatric Advisory Group continues to be engaged with public health and education partners to ensure our schools remain safe spaces for our children to learn, develop and grow.”
     – Dr. Andrew Lynk, chief of pediatrics, IWK Health Centre, chair of pediatrics Dalhousie University, president of the Pediatric Chairs of Canada



“Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan includes a layered approach to infection prevention and control – getting vaccinated, staying home when you are sick, washing your hands often and wearing a mask when appropriate are all actions staff and students can take do.

“Additionally, regional centres for education and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial are ensuring that high-touch surfaces are cleaned often and ventilation systems are working as designed. Schools have not been a significant source of infection transmission and I’m confident the plan for this year has appropriate measures that will continue to keep students and staff safe.”
     – Dr. Jeannette Comeau, paediatric infectious diseases physician and medical director, Infection Prevention & Control, IWK Health



Additional Resources:
Back to School – Living with COVID-19: https://novascotia.ca/backtoschool

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus

Information about vaccines, including how to schedule an appointment, is available at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/vaccine