January 5, 2022

Writing to your MLA

Many requests have come from our membership, asking for help in communicating concerns and expectations from parents for government to act on its responsibility to make schools as safe as possible, and thus to make it possible for them to remain open during the latest wave of Covid-19. Below is sample of a letter that can be used as a guide, can be used in full, or can be used in part, as you see fit. We do recommend you use it as a guide and express your own concerns as completely and accurately as you wish.

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December 4, 2021

Shortages, pandemics and a lack of last resorts…

By Stacey Rudderham, Co-Chair, Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education

I have been mulling and fuming for weeks, trying to find a way to express the very real grief I am feeling for our teachers and EAs, bus drivers, students and others in our public education system in Nova Scotia. I see an awful lot in messages written to me and hear a lot more in the discussions I have with parents, teachers and others, and I feel we have hit a level of crisis I did not envision. Maybe I didn’t see it coming, because I hoped errors and misguided decisions in the past would have been corrected by now. 

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October 4, 2021

NSPFPE demands government address in school outbreaks NOW

The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE), a volunteer run group dedicated to a strong and safe public education system, is gravely concerned about the government’s current approach to Covid-19 in schools.

“There have been multiple exposures at Halifax West High School including 5 new cases announced on the weekend. Parents are informing us that many families have received several close contact notices,” notes Stacey Rudderham of NSPFPE. “The frequency and number of cases in this school is highlighting the fact that current protocols do not seem to be working. And there seems to be an absence of any approaches that could stop spread.”

Here is a list of the recent Covid-19 activity in just Halifax West:

Sep. 22 – Halifax West High School, Halifax

Sep. 24 – Halifax West High School, Halifax (exp Sep 17)

Sep. 25 – Halifax West High School, Halifax

Sep. 25 – Halifax West High School, Halifax (exposures Sep 21, 22 and/or 23)

Sep. 28 – Halifax West High, Halifax – 2 additional cases

Oct. 2 – Halifax West High, Halifax 2 Cases (Exposure Sep. 28 and/or 29)

Oct. 3 – Halifax West High, Halifax 3 Cases (Exposure Sep 28 and 29)

There have also been cases in feeder schools. Our student population is not an isolated bubble. They are part of the overall community and their lives and families cross over with younger students who are not yet eligible for vaccination, the general public through their jobs and activities, and more. And the government is slow to update its in-school exposure list.

This is not the only school with multiple cases (cases to our knowledge, colour coded by families of schools, can be found in the PDF attached). It is simply the prime example of how cases can quickly expand. While extra curricular, outside visitors, and use of lunchrooms/cafeteria have now been restricted the above numbers seem to clearly indicate in-school spread. But without full schools being tested when cases happen it is impossible to fully establish the link between cases.

With our under 12s not yet eligible for vaccination, and the presence of vulnerable individuals at all school levels, something has to be done to actively protect our children. “Living with Covid” is not a safe option for a large portion of our population.

Now is the time to keep our student population safe. We demand the government address this issue with a clear and safe plan for this school and any others impacted.

September 27, 2021

Families clamour for information about in-school cases

The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE)feels the Nova Scotia Government should be treating announcements of in-school Covid cases the same as other exposure notifications. To help keep people informed the group has been tracking in-school cases (based on information provided by parents with confirmed notices).

After starting this list the group was flooded with new membership – about 3,200 new members with most joining in the last 5 days. Bringing its total membership to over 21,000. When asked, a massive majority of new members stated they joined for access to this list of in-school cases.

Policy on information around these cases seems to vary from school to school – with some informing teachers of a case in their workplace and others not. It appears some are informing only close contacts while others are informing the entire school community. The NSPFPE list relies on reports from parents – so there could be more schools that are not yet on the list. Cases seem to be being treated as isolated incidents that are not of public concern, and yet some schools have reported multiple cases and one case in a building with hundreds of people is not “isolated”. The definition of close contact has also not been made clear.

Families deserve to know about ALL cases in their school –and the public deserves to know the reality of cases in schools. Teachers definitely deserve to know about exposures at their workplace (a recent HRCE statement implied that this group can inform teachers faster because social media is “lightning fast”. Not only does the HRCE have access to social media itself, but the group is using school emails to verify cases before posting them – so the HRCE is aware of cases long before NSPFPE). Dr. Strang commented recently that they were looking into ways to share this information – it was done last year and so the way seems obvious and not out of reach.

What happens with contractors brought into schools… such as school photographers? How would they know if they were exposed before going to other schools or locations? And what about substitutes who travel from school to school? Or support staff with multi-school locations (guidance counsellors, speech therapists, etc). These individuals deserve to know if they were in an exposure location so they can take precautions and protect others.

And the community also deserves this – schools are part of our communities. We reached out to our members and were flooded with their reasons. Here are just a few:

“As someone who runs recreational programs for kids and teens I think it is essential that I know what the cases are like in schools. It is important for us to be aware of where things are happening, how things are spreading so that we can be better “informed” as to what is happening in communities and to prepare for possible closures and assess risks.” – Laura Caswell.

“Transparency is best. Example: If we have a play date lined up with friends and discover that there is a case at a school that one family may somehow be connected to, then we have the choice to postpone, etc.” – Katherine Ferguson

“At first, people didn’t realize there were covid cases in schools. Because of this people felt a little too comfortable. I feel like being made aware of school cases is a reminder that we all need to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk. People need to remember that while we are close to the goal of 75% being vaccinated, 100% of kids under 12 are not vaccinated. These kids are the most vulnerable right now.” – Tanya Houlihan

“I have an 11-year-old son with a neuromuscular disorder who is also somewhat immunocompromised. Having information about cases in schools is a critical piece of information for us to have in order to make the best possible decisions about whether we keep him in class, move him to the resource room full-time as a precaution, or keep him home entirely. Will we feel differently once he is fully vaccinated? You bet. But for now, knowing if cases are starting to pop up around us is crucial.” – Lorrie Power

“If people want the information they will find it but there is no guarantee that what is found is correct and since there is no official data source to refer to that leaves a huge opening for misinformation. If they want to fight misinformation they have to make sure the correct information is out there and easily obtained.” – Elizabeth Guitard

“If we are going to keep our under 12 year-olds in school, we need to be able to assess their risk of exposure. Transparency and open communication build trust, hiding outbreaks from the public erodes that trust.” – Barbara M. Campbell

“Knowing which schools are affected and where they are informs choices about activities and extracurriculars with my children, especially until the vaccination requirement is in effect the safety of places where kids from many schools may gather.” – Allison Carpenter

“I would like us to be confident the government is doing enough for our smallest residents and they need to be forthcoming in order to give us that confidence.” – PoonehFooladi

“Previously my (asthmatic) son was able to maintain his much-needed structured activities outside of school because I had trust in the transparency and could see where cases in the school community were. There is much more anxiety/fear/doubt now as parents are being left in the dark.” – Kathleen Manson

The above is just a tiny portion of the responses given by members of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. Many of whom joined this group specifically for access to this information.

This information is not of a private nature. It is being collected by our government and is of a public health nature. And parents clearly want it made public.

The fact that a private group of volunteers is doing a better job than our own government at keeping parents and teachers informed about this is unacceptable. Our new government has spoken often about transparency. The time for that is NOW. Our kids deserve nothing less.

September 13, 2021

NSPFPE Says Keep Masks on in our Schools

NS Parent Group calling for Minister and Public Health to leave mask mandate intact in NS Public Schools

HALIFAX, NS – Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education is urging the Minister of Education, Becky Druhan and NS Public Health to leave the current masking protocols, as well as other Covid measures in place in NS Public Schools for the foreseeable future. In response to the numbers of new cases disclosed today, and Public Health’s statement regarding community spread, parents are more concerned than ever about the removal of recommended measures that have made schools safer over the past 18 months. With at least three known school cases in Nova Scotia last week among consistent new case numbers, PEI having to close a number of schools this week due to outbreaks in children under 19, and NB returning to masking in their schools, it seems obvious Nova Scotia would be prudent to act preemptively when it comes to our students.  While a large portion of our school population remains unvaccinated and are the most vulnerable in the current Covid outlook, parents are concerned that the government is intending to drop the very important protections most recommended by experts all over the world, far too early.

Only weeks ago, we were told that a 75% vaccination rate is the minimum required to move to Phase 5 in Nova Scotia, and we would like to see that target remain a priority, and reassessed consistently, as we move through the beginnings of the latest wave of this pandemic. Schools and the Covid protocols applied there should be strengthened based on being proactive and the highest standard of protection for our students and their families, our teachers, and every staff member who is present in our public schools. Regardless of the vaccine numbers, other jurisdictions are showing that removing masks increases cases in the unvaccinated. We call on the government to maintain this important safety measure for our young children in schools.

NS Parents for Public Education also calls on the government to restore the public notice policies that were in place in the prior school years, returning to making school cases publicly known, and maintaining a publicly accessible list of current school cases and any closures. While there is a continued publication of possible exposure sites, where 15 minutes is deemed a risk, a list that is growing longer and wider everyday, it makes no sense that schools and buses, where children and teachers and other school staff exist in crowded environments for up to several hours a day, are not treated in a like manner, and perhaps with some more importance. 

Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education was started in 2016 by parents concerned with the government’s deteriorating relationship with teachers. They have 18,000 members on Facebook, and use their platform to promote and protect public education.

August 24, 2021

NSPFPE statement on 2021 back-to-school plan

We at Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education were disappointed in premier-designate Tim Houston’s announcement of the Back-to-School plan, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang’s details.

We agree that the best place for our students is in the classroom with our peers and teachers. However, with our elementary students unable to be vaccinated, and many previous concerns unaddressed, we believe this plan does not go far enough. We were hoping to see the continuation of Nova Scotia’s cautious approach to COVID, but instead feel like yesterday’s briefing was a “COVID is over” announcement.

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August 20, 2021

NSPFPE Condemn Excessive Force by Police

NS Parent Group calling for investigation and support for unhoused

HALIFAX, NS – Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education denounces the actions taken by the city and Halifax Regional Police on Wed, August 18. We are disappointed and dismayed at the flimsy excuses and lies offered to explain their actions.

Members of NSPFPE were present at the protest, and affirmed that actions by the police were designed to intimidate and provoke as soon as crowds gathered. This included surrounding the crowd (a technique known as kettling — widely condemned after the Toronto G20 Summit in 2010), using bikes to push back protesters, and brandishing pepper spray before any unrest began.

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Nova Scotia parents impatient for school COVID-19 plan

Saltwire (Chronicle Herald) John McPheee, August 11, 2021

Like many parents across Nova Scotia, Stacey Rudderham is losing her patience as she waits to hear the province’s COVID-19 plans for the school year that begins in a few weeks.

One of her daughters, who will head back to high school on Sept. 7, has both of her COVID-19 vaccine shots. But her youngest daughter won’t be eligible until she turns 12 in November.

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N.S. parent group worried education has taken back seat in provincial election campaign

Elizabeth McSheffrey, Global News, August 10, 2021

With just one week left before Nova Scotians go the polls, some parents in the province say they’re concerned that education has taken a back seat in the election campaign.

Stacey Rudderham, co-chair of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education, says it’s “befuddling” how little she’s heard the three major party leaders talk about education for school-aged children, as opposed to post-secondary students about to enter the workforce.

Continue reading “N.S. parent group worried education has taken back seat in provincial election campaign”

July 17, 2021

NOVA SCOTIA PARENTS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION – STATEMENT ON THE UPCOMING PROVINCIAL ELECTION

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Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE) was founded in the wake of the labour dispute between the provincial government and the Teachers Union in late 2016. Within a few weeks, over 18,000 Nova Scotian parents and grandparents had come together to support not only our teachers in their fight for justice, but also public education itself, which has long been under attack. Our social media presence and several town hall meetings show our support remains consistent almost five years on.

Along with the group Educators for Social Justice, we published the Manifesto (Agenda) for Progressive Public Education (https://esjns.com/manifesto-agenda-for-progressive-education/.) 

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May 19, 2021

NS Parents for Public Education Dispute Facts behind Teacher Cuts

The recent cuts to teaching staff at many HRM high schools has raised concerns for the group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. They believe the reasons being given for the cuts do not match the facts. And they question why misinformation is being used as justification for cuts.

Continue reading “May 19, 2021”