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Some parents raise concerns over schools being used as polling stations in Saskatchewan election

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WATCH: The debate on school safety was front and centre heading into the Saskatchewan election. – Oct 1, 2020

With the Saskatchewan election just days away, some parents are raising concerns about schools being used as polling stations in the midst of COVID-19.

Megan Trethewey lives in Coronach and said Coronach School, where her 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son attend, is being used on Monday by the community of around 600 people to cast their votes.

Read more: Saskatoon care home residents able to vote despite visitation restrictions

“As a parent, we are not allowed in the schools for anything, but on Monday, the whole community is allowed to come in and vote,” Trethewey said.

“There is no school that day but even if a surface isn’t cleaned properly, they say COVID can live on a surface for 72 hours and kids return to school 12 hours after the polls close.”

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Tretheway said she questions why other buildings were not considered instead of the school.

“Right now, the early polling station is going on at the drop-in centre. It’s a seniors’ place where they play cards and it is wheelchair accessible. I don’t know why they don’t just keep it there.”

“Another building we have that is also wheelchair accessible is our sportsplex, which is a huge building with a huge lobby, a hockey rink and then connected to that is our curling rink also and it’s just as large.”

Read more: In-person voting restrictions lifted for most of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation

In a statement to Global News, Elections Saskatchewan said while there were a number of options for election day in Coronach, the decision was made based on the fact that students would not be in school on Monday.

“Once the decision was made that there would be no classes on Oct. 26 and the school divisions had given agreement to using schools with certain cleaning practices in place, that location was chosen as we knew we had availability for the entire day,” Tim Kydd, senior director of outreach and communications, said in a statement.

While a number of schools are being used across the province this election, chief electoral officer Michael Boda said the number of poll locations has increased from 1,100 in 2016 to more than 2,000 now.

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“Schools are a smaller number of that, but I intentionally asked that the students not be in the schools on election day, for this particular situation. The reason for that is to ensure that we can use more schools,” Boda said.

In terms of cleaning, Boda said arrangements have been made with the school boards to ensure that they are funded well enough to do a deep cleaning after election day.

“They are aware of it and we have been working with them for a number of months in order to ensure that there is a cleaning that goes on after the fact,” Boda said.

Read more: Elections Saskatchewan ‘strongly encourages’ but will not require masks at the polls

On its website, the Regina Public Schools Division said 26 schools will be used as polling stations

“For the safety of staff and voters, we have worked with Elections Saskatchewan to ensure that all voting activities and elections staff follow health and safety protocols, including the use of different entrances and exits for school staff and for voters,” its website said.

Still, Tretheway said while she is glad school divisions are taking extra cleaning precautions, she still worries that some surfaces will get missed.

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“I hope that in two weeks from now we don’t see any cases in the school,” Tretheway said.

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