It’s a question that has been asked time and time again throughout Nova Scotia when weather conditions force school board administrators to cancel classes and one that the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies feels runs the risk of impacting the quality of education our young people are receiving.
Simply put, the question is being asked as to whether the number of school days lost to storm closures is shortchanging our children’s education? If you were to ask the children themselves, most probably don’t mind the unexpected vacations. Parents – many of whom are forced to make quick and often inconvenient child-care decisions – would probably have a different opinion. In his report to the institute, author Paul W. Bennett looks at how lost days are handled outside the Atlantic region and provides the preliminary evidence of the cost to our children of those lost teaching days. Last year, saw the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board close its schools more of than their counterparts across Nova Scotia while the province was higher than most other jurisdictions in Canada. While you can’t blame school board administrators for erring on the side of the caution, you also can’t blame parents for being concerned about the impact closing schools has on their children’s education. Bennett is recommending making sure there is a legislated minimum number of teaching days and giving the school boards and the minister of education the power to reclaim lost school days should go a long way to preserving education outcomes in our education system. He also suggests changing practices such as prioritizing snow removal for school transportation may help reduce the number of days lost to weather. While those recommendations may not be popular to some, they should not be used as an excuse for not closing schools when it is necessary. We cannot forget we do live in a northern climate and weather will continue to be a factor in our school system. Bennett’s recommendations do have merit and while it’s evident things must change, we must never place our young people in a position where their safety is compromised.