Staff Concerns in Saskatchewan Schools as COVID-19 Cases Rise | The Canadian News

The challenges school divisions are facing with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases were not unforeseen, Shawn Davidson said.

The director of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association said school divisions are prepared and have plans to deal with an ever-changing situation.

He said, however, that there are only a limited number of staff to cover absenteeism and that school divisions face challenges.

“Divisions are doing the best they can to manage (absenteeism) and ensure shifts are filled and work is being done so far,” Davidson said.

“There just aren’t enough staff available to continue to operate in our normal capacity, and I can’t speak to exactly where or when, that’s all unpredictable, but it’s certainly happening.”

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Saskatoon Public Schools has warned that this is the case in its schools.

In a letter to parents and carers on Wednesday, the school division said there have been more positive cases in the last eight days at its 61 schools than during the first four months of the school year.

“So far, we have had 439 positive cases reported by Saskatoon Public Schools students and staff members,” said Shane Skjerven, SPS director of education.

He said every case since the break involved a self-reported rapid antigen test. Before that, cases were reported through a PCR test.

“So that’s the difference and it puts into context why the numbers are so much higher, given the fact that we know there are higher cases in Saskatoon.”

Skjerven said the surge in cases is putting pressure on the division’s staff.

“We are fortunate enough in Saskatoon that we have a pretty strong substitute teacher roster and a roster that has helped, but we still face shortages,” he said.

“So we’re doing things like redeploying some central office staff to schools to provide additional support.”

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Patrick Maze said schools are “in an uproar” and school divisions don’t know if they have enough staff to ensure student safety.

“Not to mention the academic program, expecting substitute teachers to show up at your building in the morning to fill in for staff who aren’t there and finding only a handful are provided and trying to change on the fly to make sure classes are are covered. said Maze, director of the Saskatchewan Federation of Teachers.

“(It’s) a very chaotic situation, very, very fluid. And the difficulty is that that is not what is best for the student learning program.”

Maze said she doesn’t know how many teachers are absent at any given time, a situation she called “frustrating.”

“In one situation last week, I was told that a school was missing 16 staff members,” he said.

“When you are so understaffed, it has a significant impact on our ability to keep students safe. And definitely, the learning environment suffers drastically as well.”

Skjerven said 13 classrooms in Saskatoon have moved to remote or online learning.

“Our teachers are great at guiding and moving classes online. We have a lot of experience with that over the last 22 months, and we anticipate that number will continue to grow,” he said.

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“So when we have evidence that there is significant transmission of COVID-19 within the classroom, we work with the school and make the decision to move that class online for a period of time.”

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Where help is needed to deal with the surge is contact tracing, Davidson said.

He said the Health Ministry needs to help school divisions struggling with contact tracing and keeping families informed.

“A real challenge on the part of school divisions is doing the contact tracing work that is now expected of us as we go through this current wave,” Davidson said.

“We keep hearing from our members that it’s a real challenge to their ability to do all that contact tracing. And it’s really hard for some of the divisions to handle all of this.”

Maze said the government could have done a lot to slow the spread of the virus.

“And now we are paying the price. And sadly, there’s not much we can do right now,” he said.

“Therefore, I will not be at all surprised when we hear more situations of forced schools online. And it is unfortunate because the STF does not want to be online. Teachers in Saskatchewan don’t want to be online.”

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