Bicentennial School in Dartmouth closed abruptly in the spring because of the pandemic. Photo: Halifax Examiner

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Public Schools will re-open at full capacity in the fall, said Nova Scotia’s Education Minister Zach Churchill following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

“Our plan is basically to get students back to school at 100% capacity with full curriculum,” said Churchill. “We know that’s where they are going to do their best. It’s best for families as well and for the teaching and learning environment. Of course we do have to be responsive to any developing situation with COVID-19. So we do have some fallback positions — either at 50% capacity or all the way down to zero — if the situation necessitates that from a Public Health perspective. Details of what that will look like will be available next Wednesday.”

Churchill said in arriving at that decision the Education Department has been informed by discussions with the IWK Children’s Hospital, Public Health, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and the more than 20,000 surveys received from parents and students describing their experience learning from home. 

On the university front, Advanced Education and Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis was asked by reporters if he planned to intervene in the very public controversy around NSCAD’s Board of Governors’ decision to sack the Art College president.

“The government does not run the institution,” said Kousoulis, “it is independent. We have not lost confidence in the Board of Governors. With what has transpired, we are nowhere near looking at getting rid of the Board or intervening or making decisions on behalf of the Board.”

Kousoulis was equally hands off when asked if he would intervene with St. Francis Xavier University’s decision to make incoming students sign a waiver absolving the University of any liability related to COVID-19. St. FX plans to deliver more than 70% of its instruction through in-person classes, one of the highest percentages in the country. Kousoulis says he had a telephone conversation with student leaders this week and he is convinced he won’t need to intervene because the University is already preparing to make changes based on requests from its students. 

“The student leaders are in discussions with the University to actually change the waiver so it could change to more of a Code of Conduct type document,” said the Advanced Education Minister. “At this point, I’m quite certain that the waiver that was circulated is not the waiver that students will be asked to sign.”

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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