Supporting student well-being and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority for government. That is why today, Dec. 2, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill announced significant new investments in healthy food programs, math and literacy programs, personal protective equipment for staff and students, and other initiatives to keep schools safe.
The $14.3 million investment comes from the federal Safe Return to Class Fund.
“We know that student well-being helps drive student success. These investments will support the health and safety of our students and provide the supports they need to be successful at school,” said Mr. Churchill. “COVID-19 has pushed us to find new ways to keep our students learning in safe, supportive environments. This funding helps our students and staff this year, but also leaves a lasting legacy in our schools for years to come.”
Children need to eat well to learn well and schools provide students with access to regular, healthy food options. The province will invest $500,000 to meet the increased demand for the School Healthy Eating Program and $1 million to support an Emergency Food Response Fund to quickly respond to food needs of students, should at-home learning be needed.
The province will provide $4.1 million to pilot new online math and literacy programs to help students with learning in these key areas. These programs will be accessible to students in class or at home. The new programs include grades 3 to 10 math, grades primary to 3 enhanced literacy, including phonemic awareness (ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sound, such as words, rhymes and syllables), phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension, and grades 4 to 6 writing through practice and additional supports for skill development including a focus on reading and writing. Professional learning for teachers will be part of a phased implementation of these programs.
Nova Scotia will install touchless water stations in every school, reducing health risks and improving the quality of water. Schools with clean water supplies will move from bottled water to the touchless water filling stations. Remediation of water taps will continue in schools where elevated levels of lead exceeded Health Canada guidelines. About 950 units will be purchased at a cost of $3.8 million.
During the summer, regional centres for education and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial inspected ventilation systems in every school before students and staff returned. Funding of $2.7 million will ensure these systems continue to be inspected through the school year and that needed repairs are made quickly. This is over and above annual maintenance.
Other investments include:
- $1.5 million to purchase additional personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks, hand sanitizer and other supplies, for students and staff
- $700,000 to support a transition to blended learning, if required, so schools can reorganize and relocate furniture and supplies in a short period of time
We know healthy children have better learning outcomes. Providing food programming at school is one way we can directly contribute to their overall well-being. This funding will increase access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food options, ensuring students across the province have equal opportunity to receive the nourishment they need to reach their full potential.
Deanna Rawding, principal, West Northfield Elementary School, Lunenburg Co.
With this funding, Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education will be able to install approximately 240 touchless water bottle filling stations in schools across the region. This will allow us to meet accessibility standards and provide drinking water in a more hygienic manner.
Gary Adams, regional executive director, Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education
To learn more about Nova Scotia's Back to School Plan, and for FAQs about learning during the pandemic, go to: https://novascotia.ca/backtoschool
Government of Canada news release on Safe Return to Class Fund: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/08/26/prime-minister-announces-support-safe-return-school