Even though schools will be used as polling stations, teachers will not be used as polling workers.
Elections Saskatchewan was exploring the idea of asking teachers to work the polls during the province’s 28th general election on Oct. 26, but following pushback from the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, that is no longer the case.
“There’s been a lot of concern expressed,” said STF executive director Randy Schmaltz.
According to Schmaltz, the consideration of using teachers to work the polling stations was briefly discussed a month ago by Elections Saskatchewan, with the STF expressing their concerns at that time.
“We sometimes forget we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and if we’re attempting to flatten the curve it doesn’t make sense to put educators in that position and then have them working with students the very next morning. I think that’s probably not the best approach during these unusual times.”
As of Wednesday, Schmaltz has spoken to the ministry of education, the chief electoral officer Michael Boda and school boards to affirm teachers will not be mandated or assigned to work the election.
Furthermore, election day is a professional development day for teachers, so should they participate, it would have to be voluntary.
“It’s still a workday for teachers,” Schmaltz said. “They would have to arrange permission from their employer to be absent from work that day if they chose to participate. It’s complicated on a number of levels.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s chief electoral officer encouraged people to get involved in the upcoming provincial election including teachers and other education supports.
“I want to be clear that no one is being mandated to work the upcoming election and that has never been part of any discussion,” said Boda in a press release.
“This is a great opportunity to get involved in our democracy in a way that is completely optional.”
Elections Saskatchewan is the province’s independent election management body. Its decisions are separate from the Saskatchewan government which granted Boda special powers to enforce necessary measures for a safe election.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said they altered the school year calendar in response to the request from Mr. Boda to ensure voters and staff had exclusive access to schools on election day to help achieve this.
“The Ministry of Education has no other role,” said the statement with no name attached.
Elections Saskatchewan will be responsible for appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures before students and staff return to school after the election,” says the STF.