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Saskatchewan NDP releases plan to address teachers’, parents’ back-to-school woes

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan to ensure safe environment for students and staff as schools reopen
Saskatchewan's Education Minister Gordon Wyant said on June 9 that his ministry will take into consideration different factors, such as reduced class capacity or class rescheduling since physical distancing is not practical among young children.

With schools opening in about a month, the Saskatchewan NDP has released a back-to-school plan that aims to ease parents’ and teachers’ anxiety over in-class learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The seven-step plan was developed following weeks of consultation with 200 Saskatchewan teachers over Zoom.

“I know parents right across this province are really hoping we can get students back in the fall but we need to do that safely,” said NDP education critic Carla Beck.

“Every day that goes by without a clear plan is just raising the level of anxiety for parents, for students and teachers and staff in our schools.”

Read more: Saskatchewan parents start pandemic back-to-school shopping

With community transmission of COVID-19 rising across southwest and central Saskatchewan – including the city of Swift Current – the plan focuses on increased testing and the option for alternative and distant learning.

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“In our plan, we have levels where there needs to be recognition if there’s high levels of transmission,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili.

The NDP is specifically calling for a phased approach for different scenarios. For example, low case transmission would allow for full in-class learning, while high caseloads should require a return to learning from home for most students.

The NDP also wants to see an increase in COVID-19 testing and tracing, smaller class sizes and an increase in funding for school divisions.

The Saskatchewan government currently has a $200-million contingency fund set up for any unexpected costs due to COVID-19.

As for personal protective equipment (PPE), the NDP says there needs to be guidelines over mask use and the distribution of PPE.

“This should not be a politicized process, this should be a task in front of all of us that we can work together to ensure we can meet that goal, which is to ensure the well-being and safety of students right around the province,” Beck said.

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

The Saskatchewan government has announced safety guidelines for in-class learning but no official plan as of yet. Premier Scott Moe announced on Monday that the province will provide an update to back-to-school plans next week.

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“First and foremost, we want to have a safe plan for our children’s return to the classroom and for the staff that are going to be in that classroom alongside with them,” Moe said.

He said the government’s plan has been in partnership with the school divisions and the Emergency Response Team, which includes the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation.

“Things change rather quickly with this virus. So we will have mechanisms in place that may address a challenge that we might have in one community in the province but isn’t affecting all of the schools in the province,” Moe said.

Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment.

Safe spaces for students when returning to Saskatchewan schools
Safe spaces for students when returning to Saskatchewan schools