The Saskatchewan Federation of Teachers is urging the government to provide more support after the Saskatchewan Health Authority reported that about 23 percent of COVID-19 transmission in school-age children occurs in schools.
Saskatchewan Health Medical Director Dr. Saqib Shahab said that despite these numbers, the focus is on keeping students in schools for their own well-being.
“Compared to last year, there are fewer schools online,” Saskatchewan’s chief physician said Wednesday.
“There are fewer interruptions, and children can do a lot of activities at school, including sports and extracurricular services.”
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However, the Saskatchewan Federation of Teachers disagrees. STF officials say schools lack information on the cases and say that most contact tracing is done by teaching staff after hours, largely based on anecdotal information from families.
“We have situations where parents report that they have been contacted that a student is positive,” said STF President Patrick Maze.
“We are not getting the message in our schools and we are having situations where the friends of those students that we know are close contacts do not receive letters for a week or two afterward.”
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The STF wants to partner with the government and re-establish the Education Response Planning Team for clearer and more timely data on COVID-19 in schools.
Maze says they mainly want better communication on how to stop the spread.
“We know there is transmission in schools,” Maze said. “But the problem is that the health system seems so overwhelmed that we don’t get that information until a few weeks later.”
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Dr. Shahab said the province has a lot to be proud of when it comes to how school cases have been handled without stopping in-person learning.
He said school boards, government and public health officials have had weekly meetings and updates.
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Shahab’s main message to parents and students in Wednesday’s briefing was that the focus must continue to be vaccinating eligible family members to protect the youngest students in schools and daycare centers.
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