All Pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Moose Jaw, along with Caronport Elementary School, are temporarily moving to remote learning due to the recent spike in COVID-19 variant cases.
Prairie South Schools notified parents in a letter sent on March 26 that remote learning begins on Monday. In-person learning resumes on April 12 for all students.
“Although we continue to have no confirmed school level transmission, we have had more positive cases in schools over the last two days than we had for the 38 days prior to that,” Prairie South said in the letter.
“I think the majority of our parents understand we’ve been working hard all year to try to keep their kids in school and try to keep them safe when they’re there,” said Tony Baldwin, Prairie South Schools’ director of education.
“In general, people appreciate that this is a continuation of those efforts, but it is really inconvenient for families.”
Prairie South said staff will contact parents to help support the transition to remote learning.
“We’ve been really lucky. Our kids have missed very little school and that’s a credit to the hard work of our facility staff and teachers,” Baldwin said.
“We’re working hard, keeping kids masked and following the processes we’ve got in place.”
The school division serves 32 communities in southeastern Saskatchewan with a total of 39 schools.
“Given what we’re seeing and the reports of the variants in terms of how it’s very contagious, we just felt it was a good move on our part to match what was happening in Regina and to provide that opportunity for a circuit breaker kind of concept,” said Mike Walter, PVSD deputy director.
Spring break will follow online learning, meaning kids aren’t anticipated to return to in-person classes until April 12. Walter said the division will review that decision based on public health guidelines in place at that time.
On Friday, Carla Beck, official opposition critic for education, questioned the province’s handling of COVID-19 in schools with variant cases on the rise.
She said the situation has spiralled out of control with nearly six outbreaks a day in schools across the province over the past two weeks.“Parents, divisions and school staff are concerned. They want answers but unfortunately, Premier (Scott) Moe and his government have been asleep at the wheel,” Beck said.
“The fact is that the province’s entire plan for COVID-19 has been chaotic from the start – and now schools, families and communities are paying the price.”
The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province to provide clear rapid testing protocols within schools, identify and train personnel to deliver tests and reassess provincial public health measures in schools.
“Tests don’t administer themselves. Without instruction or personnel to administer them, this is another half-measure from this government that does nothing to keep kids and school staff safe,” Beck said.
“It appears that the government was just looking for a good headline, instead of actually doing their job and working with schools to keep our kids safe.”
— with files from Kelly Skjerven.