PORTERS LAKE, N.S. -- A week after the first day of school, some Nova Scotia students have already been sent home with a cough or congestion.

Their parents say it's frustrating waiting for 811 and COVID-19 test results, so some are calling to speed up testing for school-aged kids and teachers --  maybe even bringing testing into the schools.

Four-year-old Sophie Breton developed a cough on Monday and the school called her mother.

"So, I left work to pick her up and brought her home," said Jayne Breton.

And home is where Breton has been since -- waiting hours on the phone with 811, then waiting for a call back.

"I had missed their call," Breton said. "I called back right away. I waited an hour and a half. They had told me the file had been closed."

She called 811 again and finally got through, but is now waiting for her daughter's test results.

"It's frustrating for all involved and it's only week one and I'm concerned what this is going to look like long-term for me," Breton said.

The NDP believes there is a solution. The party wants Nova Scotia to speed up COVID-19 tests for students and staff in schools, to keep students in school, and also keep parents at work.

"There are lots of ways that could happen," said NDP MLA Claudia Chender. "That could be mobile testing, that could be a dedicated line to 811 for school administrators."

Prince Edward Island has considered some of these ideas and others.

"A pre-positioned group of swabs that would be ready to be sent directly to a particular school or region of the province that we needed to deal with an outbreak of schools," said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer.

Nova Scotia notes 811 saw a surge of calls on Monday and it added more staff to respond.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness said 811 received 1,704 incoming calls on Monday.

That's at the high end, and for comparison's sake, Marla MacInnis provided the average number of incoming calls per day over the last several months:

  • April: 1,203
  • May: 879
  • June: 861
  • July: 1,062
  • August: 1,186
  • September 1-14 inclusive: 1,336

"Many people can't afford the time away from work and don't have the situation where they're able to self-isolate with their children while they wait for a test," Chender said.

While Sophie got tested one day after her mom called 811, there are four kids in the family -- two with chronic conditions.

Their mother worries what the rest of the school year may hold.