With students set to return to school next week, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation is frustrated by the Government of Saskatchewan’s recent COVID-19 update.
President of STF Patrick Maze says with the Omicron variant surging across the country and recently in Saskatchewan, teachers and students are still expected to go to school.
“We expect our students, teachers, and school employees to gather in the school building and attempt to run as normal,” he said. “I worry about student safety when it comes to running our schools, knowing there is going to be significant staff shortages due to Omicron and how transmissible it is. If staff are sick they can’t come to work, yet we have a responsibility to keep students safe when they come into our buildings and I’m not sure we can do that.”
Maze added that he would like to see the return to school for students delayed.
“Many provinces have gone to just a short delay of the return to school, in order to access what staffing shortages are looking like and to understand how widespread the transmission of Omicron is,” he added.
Maze said when the announcement was made, he was expecting some sort of restriction on gathering limits. Without one, it could have a big impact on schools.
“If there are no restrictions in our communities then that makes our schools unsafe, and our primary goal is to keep in-person learning. The problem is if students are coming in sick they are going to be sent home and staff can’t come into buildings if they are testing positives for COVID, so it really limits our ability to continue running in-person learning and to ensure students are being kept safe in our buildings,” he said. “It seems irresponsible, on the one hand, we want to keep in-person learning running and keep schools open but, on the other hand, we are saying to adults go out and gather as you will and we just need to learn to live with Omicron, well the two can’t coexist. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
With Omicron being more transmissible, it opens up a greater possibility for a major outbreak in a school. Maze said that if that were to happen, students would move to online learning.
He added that if the switch to online learning were to happen, he feels teachers are pretty well prepared.