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NSTU Members,

Please Note: As the situation with COVID-19 changes the following answers will likely evolve, and updates are to be expected. These FAQ’s are not intended as contractual/legal advice and if members have questions, they should contact their appropriate NSTU Staff Officer.

As teachers prepare to return to school in September and w hen reviewing the responses below please note that page 1 of Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development July 2020) states, “This plan may change if direction is provided to the Department by Public Health in response to their assessment of changing COVID-19 conditions in Nova Scotia.” https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/back-to-school-plan.pdf

Additionally, many questions that members have can only be answered by the Employer, the EECD has also created an FAQ with several answers linked here - https://www.ednet.ns.ca/backtoschool#faq.  Please note, the NSTU continues seek answers, on behalf of its members, to the many unanswered Employer related questions and concerns.

 FAQs

  1. What supports are available through the NSTU to teachers who are finding the idea of returning to school very stressful?

The Union, insurance and education partner updates can be found here - https://nstu.ca/coronavirus

Information regarding the NSTU Member Assistance Program (MAP) can be found here - https://nstu.ca/nstu-members/member-services/member-assistance-program .  Additional resources/information available includes: Resilience, Wellness Partner, Healthcare Assist Program, Seniors’ Care Assistance Program, and CAREpath Cancer Assistance Program - https://nstu.blob.core.windows.net/nstuwebsite/data/covid19/Benefits%20Support%20During%20COVID-19.pdf .

 

  1. What can teachers with an existing medical condition, which may put them at greater risk due to potential COVID-19 exposure, do to help limit this risk?

The Union cannot provide medical advice regarding steps to limit a teacher’s risk. In these types of cases, the teacher should consult with their doctor and after doing so speak with their Executive Staff Officer if there are possible employment ramifications.

The medical information will have to be reviewed in order to assess whether the teacher can return to work with an accommodation or whether the teacher cannot medically return. As such, the medical information may result in the teacher, Union and Employer engaging in the duty to accommodate analysis. Possible accommodations are very fact specific and dependent on the particular teacher’s specific circumstances and medical – accommodations, in some cases, could result in an unpaid leave.

Alternatively, if the teacher is advised by a medical practitioner, or medical officer, to leave teaching duties (and the leave is not provided under any sick leave or other leave provisions) then the teacher may be able to access paid leave under article 31.03 (i) of the Teachers Provincial Agreement.

A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officers can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information .

 

  1. What can teachers, who do not have any existing medical condition which may put them at greater risk due to potential COVID-19 exposure, but who live with/care for people in their immediate family who are at risk do to help limit this risk?

The Union cannot provide medical advice regarding steps to limit a teacher’s risk. If a teacher has concerns regarding an immunocompromised family member they should consult their Executive Staff Officer regarding a possible family status accommodation or canvass whether they may be able to access an applicable leave in the Collective Agreement(s) (i.e. urgent or imperative leave or serious illness). The family status accommodation analysis is very complex and dependent on the individual teacher’s specific facts.  It is possible that an unpaid leave may be an option.

A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officers can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information .

 

  1. What happens if a teacher becomes ill as a result of COVID-19 exposure?

If an NSTU member becomes ill, personal sick leave pursuant to the appropriate Regional or APSEA Agreement can be used.

 

  1. What happens if a teacher becomes ill as a result of COVID-19 exposure at school/site?

If the Union can establish that COVID-19 is an injury acquired by the teacher in the performance of their duties then the Union would assist the teacher in making an Injury on Duty Claim pursuant to Article 26 or the Letter of Understanding - Injury on Duty for Substitutes, pursuant to the terms of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement.

 

  1. If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 and is directed to self-isolate by a medical professional or public health, is their sick leave covered?

If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 and they are sick then they may access sick leave under their Regional or APSEA Agreement. However, if they are not ill and they are directed to self-isolate by a medical professional then they can avail themselves of Article 31.03(i) of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement (see no. 7 below).

 

  1. What happens if a teacher is directed to self-isolate by a medical professional or public health but not experiencing any symptoms?

If a member is not ill but has been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19, then the member should be provided with paid leave pursuant to Article 31.03(i) of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement. This paid leave continues until the member is either no longer advised to self-isolate OR becomes ill. If the member becomes ill, the member’s leave would change to sick leave pursuant to the Sick Leave Article in the member’s Regional or APSEA Agreement.

It is important to remember that paid leave under Article 31.03(i) of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement is only available if the leave is not provided under sick leave or any other provisions of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement or the Regional or APSEA Agreement applicable to the member. This means that paid leave under Article 31.03(i) is only generally available while the member is self-isolated or quarantined AND not sick.

 

  1. Is there paid leave available should a teacher’s child, parent or partner who needs to be tested for and/or becomes ill with COVID-19? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine?

Special Leave and Serious Family Illness Days are governed by the appropriate Regional or APSEA Collective Agreements which can be found here - https://nstu.ca/nstu-members/member-services/contracts-agreements/regional

Generally speaking, there are days available; however, the specific details including the respective Collective Agreement, relationship to the member and illness are relevant. Please consult your respective Regional Collective Agreement or contact your NSTU Staff Officer should you have questions or concerns.  A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officer can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information .

The Union cannot provide medical advice about whether a teacher has to self-isolate (due to a member of their family contracting COVID-19 or otherwise). However if a member of a teacher’s family has COVID-19 and the teacher is advised, by a medical professional, to self-isolate then they can avail themselves of Article 31.03(i) of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement (see no. 6 & 7 above).

 

  1. Can a teacher with an existing medical condition, which may put them at greater risk due to potential COVID-19 exposure, request that students wear masks in their classroom?

A teacher cannot enforce mask wearing in their classroom without authorization from their Employer.  This could possibly be discussed in the context of an accommodation. If this is medically necessary (and there is supporting medical) then the teacher should discuss this with their NSTU Executive Staff Officer.  A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officer can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information .

 

  1. Teachers who are pregnant – who do they contact to get the extra PPE that the province has offered? What happens if they are put off work by their doctor due to the risks?

If a teacher requires additional PPE they should contact/discuss this with their Administrator as soon as possible. They may be required to provide medical documentation.

If a pregnant teacher is put off work, due to risks associated with COVID-19, depending on the facts and medical documentation the teacher (if permanent, probationary or term) may be able to avail themselves of the leave in Article 31.03(i) of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement.

 

  1. Can a teacher take a short-term or full-year leave of absence without pay? If so, what is the process?

The availability of such leaves and the accompanying process is outlined in the Regional and APSEA Agreements.  Teachers looking to explore this option should discuss this with their NSTU Executive Staff Officer.  A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officers can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information .

 

  1. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, will teachers at the site be informed, protected and will the site close?

It is the Employer (in consultation/as directed by Public Health), and not the Union, who will dictate the response in cases of COVID-19 exposure. Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan addresses Outbreak Management on page 30.

 

  1. If each class will be having recess as a bubble/cohort, does that mean teachers will be on recess duty everyday with their classes?

It may be that teachers will be asked to perform supervision over a recess break with their respective cohort.  While there is language in the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement about the scheduling of instructional time over recess breaks at some grade levels, this scenario is focused on supervision, not instruction.  Teachers who have concerns should contact their NSTU Executive Staff Officer.

Article 13 – Supervision of Pupils, of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement, limits the time teachers can be required to supervise students.  It speaks to the 20 minutes before and after the instructional day and includes while the student are on their lunch/noon hour break.  Therefore, it would be permissible to have teachers supervising students over a recess break.

 

  1. If high school and middle school students are required to wear masks in common spaces how are we as teachers supposed to be able to identify students? (Especially in violent or disciplinary situations.)

As this may pose a safety concern, teachers should relay their concerns of this scenario to their Administration.

 

  1. Can children sing? Grade primary depends on songs for learning?

It is the Employer, in consultation with and as directed by Public Health, and not the Union, who is responsible to provide direction to teachers so they can safely implement various aspects of the curriculum including singing.

 

  1. If parents opt to keep their child(ren) home (who are registered in the public school system), do teachers have to provide online learning/ distance learning for those students?

At this time, as set out in Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan the Government’s plan is following  scenario one, “September 2020 Full Opening”, with a return to school for all students.  Should conditions with COVID-19 change, the plan may phase into a “Partial or Blended Response” or “At-Home Learning”.

If students are unable to attend school for medical reasons during the “September 2020 Full Opening”, teachers should discuss reasonable support with their Administrator.  As all cases are unique, if teachers have questions about their specific scenario, they should contact the appropriate NSTU Staff Officer with any concerns.

 

  1. Who is responsible to support the education of students who opt to register for home schooling?

Section 83 of the Education Act discusses Home Education. In the event a parent decides to home school their child they must comply with this section and the applicable Regulations. The student, in this case, would not be enrolled in school and public school teachers would not be responsible for that student’s education.  However, if a student is registered in public school but not being sent to school (due to COVID-19 or otherwise) then the teacher should discuss this matter with their Administration. (see above no. 16)

Section 23(1)(b) of the Education Act provides that it is the duty of every parent to cause their child to attend school as required by the Regulations.

 

  1. Can teachers choose to wear additional PPE to school?

Some teachers may choose to wear additional PPE.  There are no concerns with this assuming it meets professional standards and dress code if their respective Employer has one. Also, staff may choose to wear non-medical masks at work in addition to the required times and locations.

 

  1. How do teachers enforce directives from the “Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan” such as no sharing, mask wearing, etc.?

You would follow the direction of your Employer and deal with these issues by following the same process you usually use regarding student behaviour. It is of note that the EECD has stated that, “It is important to consider the mental health and well-being of students and staff in applying these public health measures. Supportive rather than punitive approaches are recommended to help students follow this guidance”. 

 

  1. Will masks and visors be provided for teachers? How does a teacher get on the list for extra PPE mentioned by Government?

On August 14th the Minister of Education indicated that each student and staff member will receive two reusable masks. Teachers should check with their Administration regarding the availability of and the process to acquire additional masks/PPE.

 

  1. Are teachers responsible for cleaning between/during classes (i.e., desks, laptops, manipulatives, calculators, etc.)?

Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan differentiates between cleaning and sanitizing.  Cleaning of schools is not the responsibility of NSTU members as it is the work of other bargaining units.  As such, teachers should not be required to clean.  Teachers who are asked to do so should contact a NSTU Executive Staff Officer.

 

  1. Will teachers be expected to sanitize their classrooms throughout the day?

Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan differentiates between cleaning and sanitizing.  The ongoing sanitizing of high-touch surfaces in a teacher’s classroom such as manipulatives, desks, calculators, computers, etc. will require frequent sanitizing to help minimize possible exposure/spread of COVID-19 and other bacteria/viruses. 

Under Occupational Health and Safety laws in Nova Scotia, management and employees must share responsibility for ensuring the workplace is safe and healthy, therefore when appropriate it is reasonable to expect that staff and students will, after provided with the training and supplies necessary sanitize their learning spaces.

 

  1. If students are eating their lunches in classrooms, will teachers now expected to do lunch supervision?

The requirement that students eat lunch in their classrooms should not affect the right, under Article 13.03, of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement which provides that teachers shall not be required to perform supervision of pupils during any period of time that pupils are on lunch and noon hour break. This is subject, only, to Article 13.04 which provides that teachers shall be scheduled on an equitable basis for the purpose of providing emergency on-call service to persons other than teachers who are engaged to provide supervision of students during this time. 

It is important to differentiate the act of eating lunch and the actual lunch break.  As part of Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan staggered lunch breaks may result in actual eating occurring at a time other than during the actual lunch break.

 

  1. If a teacher is directed to perform lunch supervision, can the teachers refuse to supervise?

Given that the teacher was directed to do so by their Administration, this would be a “work now, grieve later” situation. The teacher should comply with the direction from their Administration, record the specific details and contact their NSTU Executive Staff Officer.

 

  1. Teachers may have concerns about their ability to set up their classroom in a manner that is outlined in the “Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan”. What should they do?

Teachers should discuss these concerns/challenges with their site’s Administration.

 

  1. Teachers may have concerns about their ability to implement/follow other aspects (i.e., instructional strategies, masks in hallways, etc.) outlined in the “Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan”. What should they do?

Teachers should discuss these concerns/challenges with their site’s Administration.

 

  1. Can the RCE/CSAP/APSEA change a teacher’s intended assignment?

Teacher assignments are governed pursuant to the appropriate Regional or APSEA Agreements which can be found here: https://nstu.ca/nstu-members/member-services/contracts-agreements/regional .

Generally speaking, the Employer may change a teacher’s assignment when they can demonstrate a need for such a change and generally the member may request the reason in writing. However, please consult your respective Regional Collective Agreement and/or contact your NSTU Staff Officer should you have questions or concerns.

 

  1. What benefit(s) do(es) a substitute teachers have if they contract COVID-19 as a result of exposure at school?

Substitute teachers have access to any accrued sick time and possibly Injury on Duty for Substitutes, pursuant to the terms of the Letter of Understanding in the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement.

Substitute teachers do not have access to Article 31.03(i) – Other Absences of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement.

 

  1. For what period does a teacher have to plan lessons for when they are sick or under a 14 day isolation?

There is not a one size fits all answer to this question as it may be fact dependent and would depend on, for example, the severity of the illness. If a teacher is impacted, they should discuss the expected requirement with their Administration and follow up with their assigned Executive Staff Officer.

 

  1. Will teachers be given additional time to prepare their learning environments as per “Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan”?

At this time, the EECD’s plan is for schools across Nova Scotia to open on September 8, 2020 for students.  Any changes to this plan will be conveyed by the Employer.

 

  1. As an employee, what are the steps teachers must follow to report anything in the workplace that they feel is dangerous?

Teachers should:

  1. Report immediately the situation to their supervisor (Principal);
  2. If the supervisor does not remedy the situation to your satisfaction, report it to the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or the Health and Safety Representative;
  3. If the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or the Health and Safety Representative do not remedy the situation to your satisfaction, report it to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

If the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee has unanimously advised the employee to return to work, the employee must do so or risk not being paid, even if they appeal to the Occupational Health and Safety Division.

 

  1. Does an employee have the right to refuse to do a specific work assignment if they believe their health or safety is in danger?

Whether the employee has reasonable grounds for believing work is likely to endanger their health or the health of any other person will depend on their particular circumstances, including but not limited to:

whether there have been any suspected or confirmed cases of the virus at the workplace;

whether anyone in the workplace has travelled internationally within the previous 14 days;

the employee’s age;

whether the employee has any underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable;

if the employee is pregnant or breastfeeding; and

if the employer has provided equipment or imposed policies to protect the employee.

If an employee has a reasonable basis to believe that a specific work activity is dangerous to themselves, or anyone else in the workplace, they can refuse to do the work until:

  1. The employer takes action to remedy the problem to the employee’s satisfaction or;
  2. The Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee has investigated the situation and all members of the Committee advise the employee to do the work or;
  3. A Department of Labour and Advanced Education Officer investigates the situation and advises the employee to do the work.

 

  1. What procedures must be followed when refusing unsafe work?

If an employee is going to refuse to do an unsafe or dangerous specific work activity, these are the steps they should follow:

  1. Report to the supervisor (Principal) that they refuse to do the work;
  2. If the problem is not remedied to the employee’s satisfaction, the employee should then report it to the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or the Health and Safety Representative;
  3. If the problem is still not remedied to the employee’s satisfaction, the employee should report it to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

 

  1. Can a teacher be reassigned to other work if they refuse unsafe work?

The Employer may reassign an employee who has refused unsafe work to alternative duties during the period of their work refusal, subject to any relevant restrictions in the applicable employment contract.

 

  1. Are all our governing laws and collective agreements still in effect or are they impacted by the current State of Emergency in Nova Scotia?

Yes. Currently all laws governing teachers and applicable Collective Agreements remain in effect.

 

  1. If a teacher is approached by media what should they do?

Please refer any inquiries/contacts you may receive to Public Relations at the NSTU Central Office - Angela Murray, amurray@staff.nstu.ca, or Mark Laventure, mlaventure@staff.nstu.ca.

 

  1. Are our medical/insurance benefits still in full effect as we return to schools under  Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan”?

Any questions/concerns relating to insurance coverages should be directed to Johnson Inc. at 1-800-453-9543.

 

  1. Will teachers be expected to give up marking and preparation time to cover classes for other teachers? Is there a limit on this?

Teachers marking and preparation time should not look any different this school year.  However, not unlike in previous school years, despite best efforts, situations may sometimes occur where a teacher is asked to cover another teacher’s class, giving up their own marking and preparation time.  This loss of marking and preparation time would be managed as outlined in Article 59.05 of the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement which states that a teacher who is required by the Principal to fill in when a substitute is not hired pursuant to 32.23 shall have the lost marking and preparation time rescheduled within 10 school days.

If this occurs, you should follow the direction of your Administrator and then contact your Executive Staff Officer.

 

  1. Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan” is a document created by the EECD with support from other parties, including the NSTU. What part did the NSTU play in its creation?

While Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan and the process of reopening schools belongs to the Government, the NSTU has been consulted on their plan and continues to constantly push for transparency as well as increases and attention to staff and school safety.

 

  1. Can a teacher bring their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to use in their classroom?

PPE is a broad term that can encompass all or some of the following: gloves, medical masks, respirators, eye protection, gowns, aprons, boots or closed-toe work shoes.  Your employer cannot require you to provide your own PPE. As part of the employer’s duties under occupational health and safety law, they must provide you with appropriate PPE and training on its use and care. However, there is no general right for an employee to bring in their own equipment to a workplace. As such, before bringing in any personal PPE you should get permission from your administration.  This is, partly, because your employer has a duty to ensure that the equipment used by teachers is adequate to protect teachers and students from hazards in the workplace.

Teachers who require specific PPE due to a medical condition, or as part of an accommodation, OR teachers who have had their request to use their own PPE denied by their administration should discuss this with their NSTU Executive Staff Officer. A list of Regions/Locals and their Staff Officers can be found here - https://nstu.ca/the-nstu/about-us/office-closure-information.

 

  1. Can the employer tell me that my own children cannot be in my classroom or school before the school day begins, during lunch, or after the school day ends.

The employer is justified in restricting access to their schools at any time.  In the context of the current pandemic, these restrictions are consistent with the Back to School Plan (https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/back-to-school-plan.pdf). 

If your children attend a different school than you teach at, the Back to School Plan states – “Non-essential visitors should be excluded from schools at this time.”  Your children would be considered non-essential visitors in this context.

If your children attend the same school that you teach at, the Back to School Plan requires limiting interaction between cohorts. The Employer’s restrictions are consistent with limiting interactions between cohorts.


During the current period of COVID-19 restrictions, please contact the following staff if you have enquiries:

Reason for Contact / Region or Local

Staff Member

Email Address

Annapolis, APSEA, Kings, West Hants

Pension, Insurance

Kyle Marryatt

kmarryatt@staff.nstu.ca

Antigonish, Guysbourough, Inverness, Richmond

Paul Boudreau

pboudreau@staff.nstu.ca

Cape Breton, CSANE 
Insurance

Stacy Samson

stsamson@staff.nstu.ca

Colchester-East Hants, Cumberland, Pictou 
Maternity/Parental, EI, Pension, Deferred Leave

Jack MacLeod

jmacleod@staff.nstu.ca

Dartmouth, Halifax City, Halifax County

Wally Fiander
Tim MacLeod

wfiander@staff.nstu.ca
tmacleod@staff.nstu.ca

Digby, Shelburne, Yarmouth

Tim MacLeod

tmacleod@staff.nstu.ca

Lunenburg County, Queens 

Tim MacLeod

tmacleod@staff.nstu.ca

Counselling Services, EIP

Anna Ordinelli

aordinelli@staff.nstu.ca

Certifiation, Status of Women, Professional Learning

Pam Langille

plangille@staff.nstu.ca

Professional Learning, Professional Associations

Miguelle Légère

mlegere@staff.nstu.ca

Governance

Louis Robitaille

lrobitaille@staff.nstu.ca

Communications and Public Relations

Angela Murray
Mark Laventure

amurray@staff.nstu.ca
mlaventure@staff.nstu.ca

NSTU Webmail Assistance

Brad McIsaac

webaccounts@nstu.ca (remember to include your professional number)

 

 

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