Parents, students speak out against Nova Scotia school closures
In the dispute between Nova Scotia educators and the government, parents and students in the province are taking sides — with most opting to stand firmly with teachers.
On Saturday, Education Minister Karen Casey announced public schools across the province would be closed to students Monday, deeming the teachers’ planned work-to-rule job action “unsafe” for students. Parents were left with less than 48 hours to find alternate child care arrangements.
Charla Dorrington, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations, says despite parent frustration, the majority of Nova Scotians they’ve spoken to still support the province’s teachers.
“Parents were very upset, they were angry, but they understood why the teachers were doing what they were doing,” she said on CBC’s Maritime Connection Sunday.
Casey said she had decided to close schools province-wide but teachers are still expected to report to work.
She said the province is not locking out teachers. The Liberal government says it intends to try to impose a contract on the union.
On a recent visit to Port Hawksbury to get feedback from parents on the teacher dispute, Dorrington said 100 per cent of the parents, students and caregivers they spoke to sided with teachers.
“We spoke to over 50 people in Port Hawkesbury and not one person was backing the government,” she said.
In Kentville on Sunday, a group of students and teachers took to the streets to voice their opposition to the province’s plan to shut down schools.
The rally, organized by students councils at Horton High School and Central Kings Rural High School, drew more than 30 people who came out to support teachers.
“[I support] teachers all the way at this point. You can sort of see how hard they are working. When the work to rule job action was explained to us, you really got an idea of how much the teachers actually do outside of school,” said high school student Greg McKinnon.
Worries about graduation
McKinnon said he is worried the school closure, depending on how long it lasts, could put his graduation in jeopardy.
“It’s not like it’s a snow day, it’s a message from the government saying that if this doesn’t go our way, we’re going to shut this down,” he said.
Parent David Duke said he’s lucky that he’s currently on sabbatical from his university teaching job, so his family doesn’t have to worry about childcare arrangements, unlike many people in his community.
He said he doesn’t believe Casey’s explanation that student safety was at risk because of teacher job action.
“The teachers under the conditions that they were planning beginning Monday would have ensured the safety of the students first and foremost and I think it’s a bit bogus to say that this is about safety,” he said.
“It’s about pressuring the teachers to trying to make them look bad. I think in a way that really is quite unfair.”
Awareness of unpaid work
In Cape Breton, many others expressed their exasperation over accusations teacher job action would put student safety at risk.
“The teachers really care about the children, I don’t think they would do anything to endanger or harm the children in any way,” said Paul McNeil. “I think it’s a ridiculous decision and I think [Stephen McNeil] should be taken to task for it and apologize to teachers.”
“Teachers are doing probably twice as much work than they’re getting paid for. And the government is saying we can’t afford to pay them for what they do,” said Christie Ragan, who has two school-aged children. “Our classrooms are unsafe now because of the government, not because of the teachers doing work-to-rule.”
Chad Bryden said he believes the school closure only proves how much the education system relies on unpaid work from teachers.
“I find it kind of amusing that the schools have to shut down now that the teachers are going to do exactly what they’re paid for. People don’t understand how much extra effort teachers put in — they forgo breaks so they can watch students, hours and hours a week unpaid. And now the government is going to see how much they do do.”