HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government says all public schools will remain closed until at least May 1, with a shift in focus to online and at-home learning.

All licensed childcare providers in the province will also remain closed until May 1. The province will reassess the situation at that time.

The decision was made based on recommendations from Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

“I know this has not been easy on our children who are out of school, not able to see friends or play at recess. But we are going to have to keep you out a little longer,” said Premier Stephen McNeil during a news conference Monday.

McNeil said all exams and school trips are cancelled.

Grade 12 students who were on track to graduate will still graduate, despite the interruption in the school year, said McNeil.

Grade 12 students who need a preliminary paper-based transcript for bursaries, scholarships or university entrance can receive one by contacting their regional centre for education or Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.

“This is not the final year you had hoped for, and for that, I am sorry, but rest assured we are focused on you and making sure that you graduate, that you have what you need to start the next chapter of your life,” said the premier during Monday’s news conference.

Students who were on track to move up to the next grade will do so.

“Students who need this term either to graduate or to grade will not be left behind,” said McNeil. “Your success matters and we are not going to turn our backs on learning.”

McNeil said students and families will have access to e-learning, while students without internet access will receive at-home learning materials.

The following measures were announced Monday:

  • All students in grades primary to 9 will receive at-home learning packages, which will be distributed biweekly by Saltwire Network
  • Students in grades 10 to 12 who require at-home learning packages will work with their individual teachers to address their specific needs
  • All learning will be assignment and project-focused.
  • Students and families can access a dedicated learning website.
  • All school trips are cancelled.
  • All provincial assessments, Nova Scotia exams, and final exams in all courses are cancelled.
  • Diplôme d'Études en Langue Française (DELF) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams are cancelled
  • Students in grades 9 to 12 will receive additional access to the Homework Hub -- a free online resource and tutoring for math
  • Teachers will connect directly with students and families to help support learning.

McNeil said teachers will be reaching out to students and families this week to determine a plan that works best for them.

Families who feel at-home learning may be a burden at this time are urged to speak to their child’s teacher.

“We understand many families and teachers are under great pressure. This learning plan is meant to help you and your children, not to add additional pressure to your lives during this difficult time,” said McNeil.

“No student, no child, will be penalized because of COVID-19.”

Students will continue to have access to student support services, while SchoolsPlus facilitators and community outreach workers can support students and families via phone, email and text. Those facilitators are also available to accept new referrals to support students and families who don’t currently use SchoolsPlus.

Mental health clinicians can continue to work with students and their families by phone, secure videoconferencing or in person, when possible.

The province is also modifying existing policies and agreements to allow teaching assistants and child and youth-care support workers to provide paid respite care in their communities.

Public schools in Nova Scotia have been closed since the start of March break, on March 16. The province previously announced that schools would remain closed for two weeks after March break.

As of Monday, there were 127 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.