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Saskatchewan teachers lack confidence in province’s plan to head back to school

Saskatchewan teachers are questioning safety protocols in the province's plan to go back to school, according to a national survey done by the Canadian Teachers' Federations.
Saskatchewan teachers are questioning safety protocols in the province's plan to go back to school, according to a national survey done by the Canadian Teachers' Federations. File / Global News

Teachers in Saskatchewan say they question whether or not proper safety protocols are in place for children and staff returning to the classroom in the fall, according to a recent survey.

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation addressed the national survey done by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation on Monday.

Read more: Saskatchewan school divisions reflect on supplementary learning

“Our teachers want to return to the classroom, but are very worried about the health risks and impact on student learning,” said Patrick Maze, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president.

“It is difficult to understand why precautions are necessary everywhere else — such as physical distancing and personal protective equipment — but not in our schools. Adults work in schools, and the students who are deemed low-risk go home to their families.”

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Results show that mental health and well-being of students and staff, equity supports for teaching and learning along with access to technology are what concerns teachers the most.

Read more: Functional masking: How people are adapting designs for lip-reading, eyebrow threading

STF outlined four recommendations to the province to address its concerns.

  1. Clear, consistent, specific guidelines and communication about the resumption of classes and safety protocols from both the provincial government and school divisions.
  2. Adequate supports for students with intensive needs.
  3. Physical, mental and emotional supports for all students.
  4. Confidence that schools are safe places for teaching and learning and that appropriate cleaning and social distancing protocols are in place.

“There are serious concerns about what seems to be two sets of standards for preventing transmission of COVID-19,” Maze said.

“Teachers, students and parents are anticipating the release of the plans in order to be assured their health and safety has been considered and properly addressed.”

The province responded to STF, saying plans are being developed to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“School divisions used the guidelines put forward by the Response Planning Team (RPT) to develop proactive and preventative approaches to help reduce the risk of transmission in their schools,” the province said in email sent to Global News on Monday.

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Read more: It’s official: Saskatchewan schools are closed through September due to coronavirus

“School divisions will look at the schools in their jurisdictions and develop plans in accordance with the guidelines that take into account social distancing recommendations.”

It said RPT is in the process of reviewing draft return-to-class plans submitted by school divisions to make sure they adhere to the guidelines developed by Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.

“They expect to provide school divisions with feedback before the end of July, in order to ensure there is sufficient time for divisions to put their plan into place in the schools in their jurisdiction,” the province said.

“Once divisions have been provided with feedback from the RPT on their draft plans, they are encouraged to share their return-to class plan with their local school communities.”

Schools were officially closed due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in May.

Coronavirus: Saskatchewan reports 56 new cases of COVID-19 in the past three days
Coronavirus: Saskatchewan reports 56 new cases of COVID-19 in the past three days