What a school year it’s been
PAUL WOZNEY Paul Wozney is president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, which represents more than 9,000 members of the teaching profession. Twitter @withwozney Email email@example.com
On June 30, the most challenging school year in generations drew to a close. While our public school system did not manage to avoid the pandemic, through ingenuity and collaboration we were able to find ways to keep students learning continuously, regardless of the situation. This included nearly eight months of uninterrupted in-person learning, which is something few provinces can boast. None of this would have been possible without the commitment and patience of parents and caregivers, whose support over the last few months has meant the world to teachers. Thank you for all the extra work you’ve put in behind the scenes during these anxious times to support your children’s education. I also want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to other front-line workers we work with in schools who went above and beyond to keep our schools open. They are the unsung heroes of our system and we owe them a debt of gratitude for all the extra hours they’ve worked recently on behalf of students. Finally, to students and especially graduates: I’m sorry we weren’t able to have the type of year you all had hoped for and deserved. Unfortunately, COVID19 had other plans for us. Nonetheless, we admire and celebrate the resilience you’ve displayed. You all should be extremely proud of what you were able to accomplish under the circumstances. It has been my absolute honour to represent Nova Scotia’s more than 9,000 thousand teachers, school counsellors and specialists as they’ve navigated their way through these turbulent times. Through new COVID-19 protocols, heat waves, unexpected pivots to at-home learning and back again, teachers and specialists have never wavered in their professionalism and dedication to their students. In spite of everything that was thrown at them, they’ve managed to create innovative ways to engage with students, both in person and remotely. DEDICATED TEACHERS As I’ve said many times, Nova Scotia has the best trained, most dedicated and talented teachers in the world. This pandemic has only served to heighten awareness of how valuable they are to our province and its future. Following a school year for the ages, everyone has earned a summer for the ages. Whether you’re a student, a parent or a teacher, you deserve some quality time for recuperation and to recharge your batteries. Hopefully, when classes resume in September, COVID-19 will be in our rear-view mirror and schools will begin to resemble what they did prior to March break 2020. That said, if the past 16 months have taught us anything, it is to never underestimate COVID-19, especially its new, more potent variant strains. The events of late April and early May demonstrated just how easily the virus can spread through crowded classrooms and poorly ventilated schools. The virus we are dealing with now is not the same as the one we prepared for when schools re-opened to in-person learning in the fall of 2020. We need a new, more proactive and transparent approach to opening schools safely when kids head back in the fall, which considers a variety of scenarios. Given the stress and anxiety they’ve experienced, families and staff deserve certainty about what they can expect when schools re-open. That’s why I’m urging government and the education entities to provide clarity on their plans for fall as soon as possible. The sooner this information is provided, the easier it will be for everyone to focus on what’s most important right now: a safe, happy and healthy summer with friends and loved ones.