Nova Scotia students to return to class Sept. 8

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Public school students in Nova Scotia will return to the classroom on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

"Children need safe and supportive learning environments and that means being back in school with their peers," said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Childhood Development, in a news release.

The province's back-to-school plan was unveiled Wednesday.

Regional Centres for Education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial will have plans to support enhanced cleaning, physical distancing and situations specific to schools in their area.

Classrooms to be reorganized to increase spacing and classes will be treated as a bubble, to minimize contact with other students.

There will be enhanced cleaning on school buses and all school bus riders and drivers will need to wear a mask.

The Education Department says all staff and students in high school will be required to wear a mask in school spaces where social distancing is not possible, for example hallways and common areas. Students and staff do not have to wear a mask in class, unless they want to, or if they are working with a student whose individual program plan requires a mask be worn.

There will be regular handwashing or hand sanitizing by students and staff before entering school for classes and throughout the day.

In-school assemblies and other large gatherings will not be permitted. As well, cafeterias and school food programs will deliver food to students, and students will eat lunch at their desks.

The back to school plan includes contingences if it becomes necessary to adjust based on public health advice.

"Our plan supports the full, safe return of students and staff, while allowing us to adapt how students will learn if anything changes." said Churchill.

Government says the back to school plan was developed with survey feedback from more than 28,000 parents and students. As well as input from union and education partners.

"Our current epidemiology shows that virus activity remains low in the province and education leaders have developed a plan with appropriate public health measures for returning to the classroom," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, in a news release.

"I'm comfortable with our schools reopening and my public health team and I will continue to work with education leaders to keep our students, teachers and other school staff safe."

Overall, government says learning at-home during the spring went well. However, there were some challenges, like access to technology.

In response, the province has announced they have invested $4 million to secure 14,000 computers, to support student learning for those with limited or no access to technology.

(With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace)