Faced with protests across the province, Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil suddenly reversed course this afternoon and decided to re-open Nova Scotia schools on Tuesday morning. In a statement released at 4:59PM, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey said that "we are confident that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has modified its directives to teachers in such a way that schools can now open safely."
Here is Casey's statement:
Since December 1, when concerns about student safety and the NSTU directives were raised by me in correspondence to the president of the NSTU, we understood that student safety was at risk. The union chose not to respond to that correspondence. However, we continued to be involved in conversations, seeking clarification from the union.
Now in its interpretation of their memo to administrators, principals will take all reasonable steps to create and maintain an orderly and safe learning environment in our schools. That is what we needed.
Principals have now been given the authority to modify the directive that was given to them relating to the supervision of students who arrive 20 minutes before school begins, who stay at lunch, and after school for 20 minutes after school ends.
In addition, teachers may now act as teachers-in-charge when no administrator is in the school. That is a change. This issue was expressed by principals and raised to their union as well. Principals are now permitted to use cellphones more than 20 minutes before schools begins, and 20 minutes after school ends, and that is an important communications tool.
The move to introduce contract legislation and to close schools was based on a clear threat to student safety. Superintendents indicated that they were concerned that if the directives from the union were followed, student safety was at risk.
Those circumstances have now changed and they've changed for the better. I want to thank parents for understanding that the safety of their students continues to be our priority.
Schools will be notifying parents through their normal procedure that schools will open tomorrow morning.