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A new normal: N.S. teachers continue adjustment to legislated contract
It was early October of last year when Nova Scotia's public school teachers soundly rejected a second tentative deal with the government, and the education minister announced negotiations had come to an end.
Now, a full year later with a legislated contract and a new education minister, schools are adjusting to the new working conditions.
Grant Frost, a teacher and a local president for the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, says there’s lingering resentment toward government. But he still believes most extracurricular activities are underway.
“Teachers love to do things for kids,” Frost says. “The kids are there in September and they're your classroom. They're your kids and you fall in love all over again.”
As tensions between teachers and the McNeil government boiled over, educators lined up to tell MLAs why they opposed the legislated contract. Many also pointed out during work to rule that they'd found a new work-life balance.
Teachers are now choosing individually whether they want to participate in coaching sports, leading clubs, and overseeing hot lunch programs and fundraisers.
Parent Colleen O'Hara Gallant doesn't have a child in school this year, but says friends are raising concerns that not all schools are equal.
“The elementary parents that I've been talking to have noticed a lot of changes this year,” says O'Hara Gallant.
Several parents told CTV News that one school's hot lunch program is not going ahead, but none wanted to speak on camera.
“Parents are really worried about exposing themselves at the elementary level,” O'Hara Gallant says.
It's nearly impossible to get a clear picture of what's happening across the province. School boards and the union don't track information about coaching and club activities or hot lunch programs.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill says government is now focusing on a new relationship.
“We've partnered with the union on a number of initiatives already,” Churchill says. "We're in lockstep on the council to improve classroom conditions.”
New class caps and an attendance policy are in place, but many issues teachers identified last winter are still outstanding.
“That was not a sudden spontaneous outburst. That was a long buildup of deterioration of working conditions,” says Grant Frost.
Changes to the amount of data collection teachers are still required to do are expected later this fall.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.