School board adjusting to work-to-rule

PORT HASTINGS: As local students headed back to school this week, the Strait regional school board (SRSB) continues to make adjustments to accommodate the work-to-rule job action launched by members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) in early December.

Following Wednesday night’s regular board meeting at the SRSB’s central office in Port Hastings, superintendent of schools Ford Rice confirmed that the board is continuing to advertise for community members that can fill student supervision roles at regional schools, particularly during the lunch hours. This process began shortly before the December 6 launch of the NSTU’s work-to-rule action, which has its members arriving 20 minutes before classes begin, leaving 20 minutes after classes end, and foregoing any involvement in extracurricular activities.

With advertisements for supervisors continuing to appear in local newspapers, including The Reporter, Rice remained hopeful that the few areas without a full complement of supervisory positions will soon have these gaps filled.

“Obviously, some of our approved supervisors were unable to commit to [continuing] after Christmas, and as a result of that, we put an ad in the paper prior to the Christmas break, looking for additional approved supervisors, so that ad yielded some results,” Rice reported.

“Some of the people who applied don’t have their required documentation, some do, and we’ve been able to secure a couple of additional people through there. Right now we’re just working through that process as well, to get the level of supervision up to where we had it before Christmas.”

As the NSTU and the province attempt to set dates for a new round of contract talks, the SRSB and its schools continue to make other adjustments to carry the buildings and their student bodies through the remainder of the work-to-rule process. In some cases, Rice noted, these shifts include the introduction of a second lunch period to accommodate the onus placed on the new wave of supervisors to ensure the safety of students.

“One school in particular didn’t do that before the Christmas break, but now has a number of lunch breaks so that we don’t need as many approved supervisors and we can get by with less supervisors but just split up the lunches,” Rice explained.

As well, the SRSB is continuing to adjust its bus routes to ensure that as many students as possible will arrive and depart within the 20-minute window of activity NSTU members are allowing as part of their work-to-rule status. The board tweaked 41 bus routes in the early stages of the job action, but Rice confirmed that some students are still arriving before teachers begin their official work days.

“In some instances, buses were still showing up five minutes early,” the superintendent recalled.

“To my knowledge, we’ve been able to work out those inconsistencies through our Operations Department, and all of those buses now fall within that range, or we have additional supervisors in place, so that when students disembark the bus in the mornings, they have supervisors in place at the schools.”