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No outside community user groups allowed at Regina schools this fall, divisions say

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WATCH: Schools serve many important roles in their communities. But with the threat of the novel coronavirus still very real, the ones in Regina won't be welcoming outside user groups in when they reopen in the fall. Roberta Bell has more. – Aug 18, 2020

The community groups that normally offer their programs in Regina schools continue to be challenged to explore their options amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the public and Catholic school divisions say there is a focus on limiting the number of people going through the buildings when students return as of Sept. 8 and that they will not be providing the community groups with access — at least not right away.

“We know the value they provide,” said Regina Catholic Schools communications co-ordinator Twylla West in an email statement. “But we also know our responsibility to our students, staff and families.”

Regina Public Schools communications supervisor Terry Lazarou echoed the sentiment in a similar statement, adding that discussions about the issue of finding space for community groups are ongoing with the municipality.

Read more: Saskatchewan School Board Association ‘welcoming’ recent changes to Safe Schools Plan

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Up until the novel coronavirus appeared in Saskatchewan in March, the Regina Early Learning Centre ran its Regina Early Years Family Resource Centre drop-in play sessions at three city schools: Sacred Heart Community School, St. Matthew School and Dr. L. M. Hanna Elementary School.

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“We’ve really appreciated the use of the space in the schools and wouldn’t have been able to deliver the program we’ve been delivering without that space,” said the organization’s executive director, Mary Ann McGrath.

In recent months, those playtimes have moved online. The organization has been hosting virtual story time and singalongs on its Facebook page, where it has also been sharing recipes and activity suggestions.

Read more: Majority of Canadian parents plan to send kids back to school amid coronavirus: survey

“We have lots of people following us, but also people are missing the in-person contact,” McGrath said.

The Regina Early Years Family Resource Centre is in the process of looking for its own space while trying to figure out new and different ways to bring small groups of young families together safely.

“It’s a very real challenge and it’s trying to find the balance between physical health and our emotional and mental health,” McGrath said.

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Read more: Saskatchewan School Board Association ‘welcoming’ recent changes to Safe Schools Plan

Fitness instructor and father Riley Nadoroznick has been running Wednesday gym nights at McLurg Elementary School through the winter for the past three years.

“There are some programs that are able to move outdoors or onto a virtual type program through zoom or that kind of thing, but unfortunately for us, we really need that open gym space,” said Nadoroznick, who owns Conviction Fitness, but volunteers to with the Prairie View Community Association to help provide low-cost recreation in the neighbourhood.

“Everybody’s having to deal with change. It’s unfortunate, but if this is the worst thing that happens, then that’s not too bad.”

Read more: Saskatchewan provides details of additional $40M into Safe Schools Plan, delayed start

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education says individual school divisions continue to have the authority to make decisions about allowing outside user groups into their buildings, as long as the school divisions follow the up-to-date protocols of the pandemic public health order.

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