Sask NDP setting out safe back-to-school plan

Saying the Scott Moe government is failing Saskatchewan teachers, students and parents on a safe back-to-school plan when schools swing the door open for the 2020-21 academic year in September, the opposition NDP is providing a plan of their own.

That plan has seven key requirements:

  1. Fix COVID-19 testing. Testing and tracing capacity must be in place to ensure that any outbreak is identified and dealt with swiftly. We must also ensure parents and teachers not be faced with testing delays of a week or more as we see today. Further, the government must report daily on how many people are waiting for tests and how long people are waiting for tests and results.
  2. Smaller class sizes. Even before COVID-19, our classrooms were far too crowded and understaffed. It is absolutely unacceptable to send kids back into the same crowded conditions in the middle of a pandemic. The government must lower class sizes with appropriate funding and planning in place.
  3. Dedicate funding. The Saskatchewan NDP called on the government to provide the needed funding for schools to prepare during the June sitting of the legislature, but the government hid behind a cross-government contingency fund. With cases rising, now is the time to assign dedicated dollars to ensure safe school transportation (including safe busing) and appropriate staffing of both instructional and support staff (including substitute teachers and educational assistants) with enough capacity to ensure smaller class sizes and increased protective measures.
  4. Provide guidance on outbreaks. Provide clear procedures for what to do when students or staff test positive or have symptoms. Ensure processes are in place to quickly communicate potential school-based or community-specific outbreaks to families.
  5. Plan for a phased approach. This means planning for different scenarios:
    1. Low case transmissions that would allow for full in-person learning;
    2. Increased community transmission that would necessitate hybrid instruction models;
    3. High caseloads, which would require a return to learning from home for most students.
  6. Provide for alternate and distance learning. Address the digital divide, ensuring all students have access to technology and resources for any distance learning. Identify spaces close to existing schools that could be used for instructional purposes, including for support of immuno-compromised teachers and students, and those with immuno-compromised family members. We also need clear guidelines to make sure that students with special needs are not forgotten or excluded in a return to school.
  7. Provide adequate PPE, as well as clear guidelines on mask use. Funding needs to be clearly identified so that every school division is able to provide PPE and have the staff available to do the necessary added sanitation work. This includes an urgent need for clear guidance on mask use in common areas in schools – and the distribution of masks and PPE in schools.

Education critic Carla Beck says time is of the essence.

“Every day that goes by without a clear plan is just raising the level of anxiety.” Beck said.  “Parents, students and teachers  need answers.  We need to get this right today so that we are not just setting teachers, students and communities up for failure tomorrow.”

Premier Scott Moe did indicate earlier this week that the government would have an announcement regarding schools next week.

A statement from the Ministry of Education says school divisions saved about $40 million as a result of the in-school learning suspension earlier this year, and have indicated they will use this funding for any costs associated with a safe return to school. At this time, no school division has requested additional funding for COVID related items.

The statement goes on to say schools will increase sanitation measures and continue to promote proper hygiene practices. This includes the availability of hand sanitizer wherever possible, establishing clear protocols for bringing supplementary school materials such as backpacks and school supplies in and out of schools, and minimizing contact among students and staff – as much as possible.


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