This weekend, without public oversight, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education’s Regional Executive Director Elwin LeRoux (Twitter: @ElwinLeroux) and his leadership team are carrying out cuts to staffing by as much as 12.5% at metro high schools while completely eliminating Unassigned Instructional Time (UIT).
UIT has been the backbone of HRCE’s COVID-19 safe return to school protocols supporting in-person learning.
The last several weeks have shown us that even fully deploying UIT has not been enough to stop massive community spread in metro schools during the third wave.
This week NS Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang told families, students and school staff that remote learning could remain in place until the end of the year.
In other provinces where community spread has taken root widely in schools, driving case counts down has proven near impossible despite adding restrictions over months, even as vaccines rolled out faster and more broadly than they have here in NS.
This raises deep questions about the premature elimination of the most important COVID-19 safety resource HRCE has at its disposal to protect students and staff BEFORE anyone knows what September’s epidemiology will look like.
UIT, as a base, has proven insufficient to protect against third wave community spread in numerous HRCE schools. How can eliminating it and the layer of protection it affords to nearly 1/2 of all NS students and school staff be safe or remotely responsible heading into next year?
It’s worth reminding families that until Bill 72 wiped out their elected, community-first elected trustees that Elwin LeRoux’s callous plan to eliminate UIT during a pandemic would have been subject to Elected Trustees’ approval. Now? It’s a call he makes himself, accountable solely to Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Derek Mombourquette.
I can confirm definitively that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has presented both HRCE and the Minister with compelling data about the critical importance of UIT to pandemic safety, as well as proven positive impacts on student attendance, achievement and retention and engagement. Further, we have sustained behind the scenes efforts for weeks that have provided both HRCE and the Minister with ample opportunity to solve this issue without public controversy that could destabilize public confidence in the safety of Metro schools.
Still, those efforts have fallen on deaf ears and the cuts march on. That’s why teachers, school counsellors and school based specialist are calling on families and community members to join in overwhelming mobilization to prevent this dumbfounding decision from moving forward.
Together, we have until Wednesday, May 12, to prevent these actions from being finalized. Once staffing processes begin on Wednesday, it will be next to impossible to reverse these cuts without throwing Metro schools into utter chaos for the rest of this year and for 2021-2022.
We invite family and community to get loud and direct with their MLA and RED Elwin LeRoux that this decision cannot stand. They can do so by:
– Contacting Elwin LeRoux by email at firstname.lastname@example.org & by phone at (902) 464-2000 ext 2312
– Identifying the MLA for their home and/or community school address by entering their postal code at https://enstools.electionsnovascotia.ca/edinfo2012/
– Locating your MLA’s email contact via their NS Legislature profile page at https://nslegislature.ca/members/profiles
Government and Public Health cannot rest on protecting the wider community by telling Nova Scotians to stay home and avoid purchasing sandals at Costco. It must also ensure that the system resources needed to safeguard key social pillars are maintained until COVID-19 is stamped out for good.
The human resources needed to make in person learning safe and sustainable at Metro schools, where third wave community spread has hit schools hardest, MUST be protected now so they are not lost for September.
I urge all families, school staff and concerned citizens to rally over the next five days to send a clear message that deep cuts to staffing in metro schools is the wrong thing to do for our kids and communities.