No more snow days? Education Minister to Examine Online Learning Options – Halifax | The Canadian News

With the advancement in online learning during the pandemic, many wonder if the end of snow days has come for Nova Scotia students.

The province will discuss changes to schooling on snowy days, said Becky Druhan, minister of early childhood education and development, but must first check with the teachers union.

“This is something that has become available recently as a result of technology and the efforts of many people during the course of the pandemic,” Druhan said. “The reality is that many of our structures and practices in the education system relate to collective agreements that were drafted and agreed upon before any of these options were available.”

All schools were closed Wednesday as Nova Scotians recovered from the first winter blow. Snowfalls of between 25 and 40 centimeters came in the Halifax region.

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Paul Bennett, an education consultant and director of the Halifax-based Schoolhouse Institute, said that over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in Nova Scotia have spent 18 weeks learning at home. So it was a bit surprising, he said, that schools in Nova Scotia couldn’t switch and use that technology during a forecast snow storm.

“Nothing surprised me more than seeing the first snow of the year, and we weren’t prepared, or not committed, to use the technology they spent, essentially two years perfecting,” Bennett said. “We knew on Monday that it was going to be the heaviest snowfall of the year and everyone got ready.”

Druhan says the education department wants to investigate the opportunity to transition to e-learning when the snow days roll around, but they have yet to sit down and discuss with the NSTU.

“It’s definitely a plan of mine to start that conversation,” Druhan said. “We have skills that we did not have in the past and it is worth exploring how we should modernize the system.”

NSTU Chairman Paul Wozney says the government could end snow days if it wants to. It’s not the teachers’ contractual arrangements that get in the way, he said. Instead, it’s about accessing technology.

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“The collective agreement is not the barrier,” Wozney said. “It really comes down to logistics and it is assumed that everyone has the Internet and everyone has a device, and now we know that after the pandemic, that’s not the case.”

Liberal education critic Derke Mombourquette says the education department is unlikely to make a decision on a whim and eliminate snow days this winter.

“A lot of consultations will have to happen, and personally for me, in my opinion, I just don’t see how you flip the switch and go to virtual learning or learning at home, it would be very difficult, especially for parents.”

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But with students missing more school days, Bennett continues to question why new technology is not being used to limit classroom disruption.

“We’ve had COVID-19 and the pivot to online learning, and we’ve gotten really good at pivoting to use technology,” says Bennett. “So why is it suddenly not available to students and teachers?”

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