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Some Sask. school divisions encouraging staff, students to wear masks when returning to school

Some Saskatchewan school divisions are encouraging students and staff to wear masks when returning to school in the fall.
Some Saskatchewan school divisions are encouraging students and staff to wear masks when returning to school in the fall. LM Otero / The Associated Press

The Regina Public School Division is recommending students and staff wear masks when returning to school in the fall, despite the province’s decision to not make them mandatory.

Staff are encouraged to wear non-medical face masks inside RPSD schools when physical distancing is not possible, noted in its plan to return to school.

The RPSD is also asking parents and guardians to think about including face masks in their children’s school supplies.

Read more: Masks won’t be mandatory as Saskatchewan releases its Safe Schools Plan

The RPSD says staff will lead the way when it comes to implementing public health guidelines, such as handwashing, physical distancing and mask-wearing, when necessary.

Like the RPSD, the Regina Catholic School Division recognizes that masks are not mandatory under Saskatchewan’s plan, but says it’s ready to use them if need be.

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“If there is unavoidable mass movement and contact that does not allow physical distancing, masks may be utilized,” the RCSD said in its plan released on Tuesday.

Prairie Valley School Division did not say whether or not it’s encouraging students, teachers or staff to wear masks in its return-to-school plan, but outlined it would provide them to anyone displaying potential coronavirus symptoms.

All three divisions will have disinfectants and hand sanitizer available in all of their schools, along with other cleaning products and supplies.

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

Staff and students who feel sick or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are being told to stay home. If symptoms begin at school, staff and students will be sent home or placed in the designated self-isolation area.

“Please be assured that we have done everything we can to enhance the safety with physical distancing, limiting contact and cleaning protocols in our schools to reduce the risk as much as possible,” PVSD posted in a message to parents and guardians on its website on Tuesday.

“Throughout the last several months, the safety of students and staff has always been of utmost concern and has informed all decisions by the province and by our school division.”

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On Tuesday, the RCSD sent out a press release saying it will provide further updates over the next couple of weeks.

“You can expect to hear directly from your schools about next steps over the weeks leading into September, including details about transportation, for those who use it,” the statement read.

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

“Parents and guardians of students with intensive needs may also be contacted directly with details relevant to them and their families. Lastly, all school families will also learn about their options for those who do not wish their children to return to school because of health concerns.”

The province said it worked closely with each school division on these back-to-school plans and is happy with the outcome.

“I would like to thank Saskatchewan’s school division for their diligence in developing these plans,” Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant said.

“In close consultation with public health officials, the Education Response Planning Team has reviewed and approved each plan to ensure alignment with Saskatchewan’s Safe Schools plan.”

If further work needs to be done or things changes, the Saskatchewan School Boards Association is ready to adapt.

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“As we approach the start of a new school year in these unprecedented times, staff, families and students can expect further communication about the details of their school division’s plan specific to their school communities,” Saskatchewan School Boards Association President Dr. Shawn Davidson said.

Click to play video 'Teachers ‘very concerned’ for school return amid COVID-19: STF' Teachers ‘very concerned’ for school return amid COVID-19: STF
Teachers ‘very concerned’ for school return amid COVID-19: STF – Aug 5, 2020

“School boards will also continue to engage, work with sector partners and seek the best information available to make decisions as circumstances develop or change so plans can be adjusted accordingly.”

Alberta’s back-to-school plan, released Tuesday, made it mandatory for grade 4 to 12 students to wear masks. Manitoba is still considering the option.