One of the biggest institutions affected by Saskatchewan’s drop of mandatory indoor masking and isolation after testing positive is public schooling. This change is drawing mixed reaction.
On Monday afternoon, students outside of Winston Knoll Collegiate said the majority of their teachers are still wearing their masks inside and most of their peers are choosing to do the same.
“I have family who are high-risk and I just feel more comfortable with my mask on because in the past when we were able to take our masks off, there was another outbreak and things got bad again,” said Grade 10 student, Arryah Rees.
“So, I just feel like preventing me, my family, and friends from getting sick, is in my best interest,” she added.
Another student said he is pleased by what he is seeing.
“It makes me feel good that more people are wearing masks than not wearing masks, it makes me feel safer,” said Grade 9 student, Kasen Allen.
“I’m going to continue to wear a mask because I think it’s the right thing to do, if you don’t wear a mask that’s fine, it’s your personal choice,” said Grade 11 student, Brandon Walker.
Most school divisions in the province are encouraging staff and students to wear masks, and they are also providing them.
Notifying schools of COVID cases and students staying home if they’re sick is encouraged as well.
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, said educators are very concerned and feel health measures are being removed too soon.
“We don’t have any social distancing going on in schools, many classes are overcrowded and when you combine that with a lack of masking, they really feel they’re exposed,” Maze explained.
“They see the numbers of hospitalizations, know that the hospitals and ICU’s across the province are full and it doesn’t really seem like a safe situation to start removing masks,” he went on to say.
Maze also said the federation feels the province is valuing economics over the well-being of those at schools and people who are immunocompromised.
Dr. Joseph Blondeau, a clinical microbiologist based in Saskatoon, explained that the provincial government is not the odd one out in making this move.
“Nobody really knows what the right time is. You just have to make a decision based on what the data is showing and Saskatchewan is not the only province doing this,” Blondeau said.
“Other Canadian provinces are lifting restrictions and certainly there’s a pan-removal of restrictions occurring in the United States and Europe,” he added.
Meanwhile, teachers and students alike are hoping further outbreaks aren’t the result of lifting the mandate.