GUYSBOROUGH – It’s back to in-school learning for local students – effective June 2 – but not everyone likes the idea.
As part of a five-phase COVID-19 re-opening plan announced May 28 by Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang – Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, the first phase includes the return to in-person classes for all students across the province in both public and private schools.
“We know that in-person schooling is best for children, and thanks to Nova Scotians following the rules, we can safely re-open schools to many of our students,” said Rankin. “We want students in their classes with their peers, finishing the year strong.”
All those in favour
Reaction to the announcement was mixed.
Canso area parent Jennifer Roberts, who was featured in this newspaper several weeks ago – frustrated by online learning and failing internet service – commented, “Pumped! Our boys are ‘Christmas’ excited!!!!!”
Another Canso area parent, Melissa Richards, stated, “My daughter watched the briefing herself and called me at work. I haven’t heard her that excited in a long time. This is excellent news and very exciting.”
Parent Chris Cook of Linwood added, “I think it’s excellent news. Kids learn best in classroom settings. Teachers can function best in classroom settings and those of us with poor Internet in rural Nova Scotia – it’s a hardship to have school online.
“Also, it was safely done for months and it can be safely done again, as long as there’s no Covid getting into our communities from outside,” commented Cook.
And those against
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) posted reaction to the announcement on their webpage: “Premier Iain Rankin’s commitment to maintaining remote learning for the final few weeks of June brought closure and a level of certainty to students, teachers and families after COVID-19 ravaged the public school system in late April. Today’s announcement will generate more anxiety and needless confusion for families already struggling under the impacts of this pandemic,” according to the NSTU.
“I appreciate how difficult the decision was to suspend in-person learning for the remainder of the year. It impacted a lot of households and there are compelling views on either side of the issue,” said NSTU President Paul Wozney “But given how many teachers and students were infected just a few weeks ago in schools, and how little time remains in the academic year, the appropriate decision was made last week. Reversing the decision now for a brief return to school brings with it significant risk and could cause a lot of fear and anxiety for families.”
Some students echoed these concerns.
Guysborough Academy Grade 10 student Mayan Evenhar told The Journal, “I find it really unfair for the students and teachers that they keep changing the plans on the rest of the school year. When they switched us to online learning there were a lot of questions about exams, when we were going back, etc. When it was announced that we were going to spend the rest of the year online, we finally had a plan for exams, questions were being answered.
“As a student I work hard on my classes so I had study plans for all of my exams that would fit the criteria for the exams that were implemented by my teachers. This created some peace in the havoc. When they announced school would be reopening for the rest of the year, many of my classmates, including myself, were confused to what the point was as it would only be two weeks [of class] from Grades nine to 12,” Evenhar said, as classes wrap up for those grades on June 11.
All other grades continue until the end of the calendar school year on June 30.
“This made me really frustrated and honestly mad at the [decision] because since there were no plans set for in-person exams or if the provincials [exams] were going to be back on, my teachers also had no idea what was going to happen, so we were getting no answers,” she said.
“Since exams were going to be online, we were going to have our notes to help us but now since the exams will be in-person everyone needs to study harder with only two weeks left; not including time lost because teachers aren’t done teaching their units. If provincials are back on that would leave me and my classmates to re-learn eight units of math in two weeks, which is not a lot of time to study with our best effort possible … It’s just unfair that they gave students and teachers such short notice without releasing much information on what the rest of the year would look like,” Evenhar stated.
Noor Mohrez, a Grade 12 student at Guysborough Academy and co-president of the student union, told The Journal in an email, “In my eyes, it’s certainly great to be seeing people again and to go back to a regular schedule. It’s exciting that, as a grad, we get to end off our year more normally than we could have.
“That being said, I don’t know exactly how much we can get done in the time we have left. The transition from online to in-person learning is going to be a bit of a shock for some students, as we were just getting used to being online. Exams will be a lot of stress as well,” Mohrez wrote.
“I understand the decision to send us back was based on caring for our mental health, and in some ways, it will benefit that while in others it may deteriorate it. I know personally, I wasn’t thriving with online school but being sent back like nothing happened won’t completely work for me as I may need time to adjust. By the time I finish adjusting, I might have graduated, which is kind of funny when you think about it,” added Mohrez.
He concluded, “If they can find a way to ease the workload on students as much as possible for the rest of the year, I see no problem with it, so we don’t have to focus on adjusting our learning styles as much. But if we’re ending off the year with regular exams and so many deadlines to catch up on ... there might be some problems for students.”