Nova Scotians have risen to the challenge to fight COVID-19. We have followed instructions, flattened the curve and shown what we can do when we work together.
But now, our communities and small businesses are struggling. Families and educators want to know that there is a plan for safe, healthy learning this fall. And we want Nova Scotians to be Ready for What's Next.
Back to Class - Safely
The start of the next school year is not far away, and many Nova Scotian families have questions. With the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, parents and students need certainty that learning will be safe, accessible and effective.
Sadly, as the end of June approaches, Nova Scotia is the only province that hasn’t provided a roadmap for what the return to classes this fall looks like.
After extensive consultation with the education sector, as well as former teachers and principals within the PC Caucus, Tim Houston has a plan focused on the health and safety of Nova Scotians while identifying human resources and physical space limitations. A plan that will help set expectations and provide peace of mind for students, families and staff returning to school this fall.
Read Tim's Letter
Administrators can’t be forced to leave things to chance this fall by a lack of direction from the Department. They need time to prepare and organize now. They know what’s best for their specific school and community circumstances, and they need clarity to allow them to prepare, while building capacity to respond to the unexpected. Tim’s plan calls for:
- Site based management and decentralization of administration.
- Each school must develop an operational plan in conjunction with Public Health and the NSTU.
- Establish attendance policies for staff and students experiencing symptoms.
- Plan for staffing shortages.
- Equip teachers with distance learning equipment so they can teach from home.
With planning, engagement and clear direction, our educators will be equipped to provide an optimal classroom experience for children. Their health and safety will be key to achieving learning outcomes and setting students up for success. Our plan will:
- Offer professional development to those who want it over the summer.
- Seek teacher input on how to lay out classrooms; schools; student flow; etc.
- Work with teachers to redesign curriculum outcomes focused on core skills in literacy, mathematics, critical thinking and experiential learning experiences.
- Allow immunocompromised teachers to self-identify and work exclusively on-line with cohorts of students.
Supporting Students and Families
Parents have told us that Nova Scotia’s education system needs to be better prepared for a potential second wave. We agree. Parents and students need to be confident in a balance of Public Health directives and robust learning experiences, no matter what happens. We’re calling for the following classroom measures:
- Provided the health risk of COVID-19 spread remains low, all schools resume some level of in-person learning in September.
- Create classroom cohorts or “bubbles.”
- Grades pre-primary through five should resume the standard five day in-class learning but with reduced class sizes. No more than 15 students per classroom. Physical contact should be discouraged when possible.
- Additional staff will be required to accommodate the increased demand on the system.
- Grades six to twelve should resume two-to-three days per week with physical distancing in place, where possible. The rest of the week will include at-home and experiential learning, including the use of Google Meet.
- All educational programming must be graded.
- The Department must consult with a group of parents of children with diverse needs to receive advice and make appropriate preparations.
- To facilitate any at-home learning, each school needs to take stock of their students’ access to and capacity for Internet access and devices.
- Alternative plans must be established for students without access to the Internet.
- Schools must loan out devices to those students without appropriate tools at home.
We can’t leave anything to chance or reaction in the event of a second wave of COVID-19. Putting a clear and accountable safety plan in place now will minimize disruptions to learning and give educators and families confidence that students will be protected.
- Teachers, administrators and parents should all be provided with information on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including a checklist for parents with a daily screening.
- Anyone attending school experiencing any symptoms, or who has been in contact with anyone being tested, should not attend the school.
- There should be a plan in place for Immunocompromised children and immunocompromised teachers.
- Public Health should prepare videos for different age groups demonstrating proper hygiene protocols.
- Regular hand washing must be scheduled throughout the school day.
- Act early to secure necessary supplies (hand sanitizer, handwashing stations, masks, directional stickers and plexiglass).
- Each school and classroom must increase cleaning protocols for high traffic and high touch surface areas.
- Efforts should be made to minimize class size.
- Limitations should be placed on assemblies and gatherings, in accordance with Public Health protocols in place at any given time.
- Separate entry and exit points should be designated in each school’s plan to minimize contact at high traffic periods.
- Ensure appropriate mental health supports are put in place for students.
Health and safety measures must go beyond school property. Measures for transport to and from school need to be in place so parents can be at ease that their families are protected, and to minimize risk to bus drivers. Tim’s plan calls for the following measures around bussing:
- Each school must take stock of what students have what needs.
- Buses should be running at half capacity.
- A new bussing schedule needs to be established based on the limited capacity and the needs assessment of each school.
Jumpstarting Our Economy
Tim Houston wants to ensure Nova Scotia’s economy is Ready for What’s Next. He is calling on the government to fill the gaps and provide overdue financial support for small businesses to ensure they can remain safe and competitive as they re-open, rehire and help our communities get moving again. Tim's plan includes:
- Establish the “Get Going Grant” to provide eligible businesses a grant up to $2,500 to stock up on necessary PPE, plexiglass and other protective equipment.
- Fill in gaps in the wage subsidy and extend the program provincially to cover anyone who is truly working for the business, including independent contractors and instructors.
- Fill in gaps in the CERB and extend the program provincially to cover owner/operators whose income comes from dividends from their small business as opposed to drawing a “salary.“
- Commit provincial funding for summer day camps to enable parents to return to work.
- Provide short-term commercial rent relief with a no eviction backstop (for evictions related to COVID-19).
- Make the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program mandatory for landlords where no other arrangement has been agreed.
Read Tim's Letter
Taking A Healthy And Safe Approach
They say that things will look different for a little while. Nova Scotians can accept that, but they have the right to receive information as to what it means. A successful transformation can only happen when Nova Scotians have confidence in the process. Now is the time for support, not surprises. Nova Scotia needs to:
- Provide greater clarity on rules for reopening protocols and timelines.
- Establish a single source for reopening information for consumers and businesses.
- Use the “Get Going Grant” to make it easier for businesses to comply with Public Health regulations.
- Work with municipalities to improve and expand outdoor sales space, including restaurants and markets.
Read Tim's Letter
Supporting Our Hospitality Industry
In a province as beautiful as Nova Scotia, the tourism sector is a crown jewel. Tim Houston is calling on the government to market Nova Scotia to Nova Scotians and provide expedited licensing and tax deductions to allow restaurants and the tourism industry to safely reopen and serve Nova Scotians again.
- Increase the Tourism Nova Scotia marketing budget by $2 million to run a marketing campaign focused on homegrown tourism.
- Double the allowable tax deduction for business-related meals to 100% for the 2020 fiscal year.
- Establish a tax deduction of $200 for meals and/or accommodations within Nova Scotia per filer, with an additional $100 deduction per dependent for the 2020 fiscal year.
- Help municipalities to expedite permits for patio and outdoor dining for food and liquor service.
Read Tim's Letter