Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation urges government to act on COVID-19 transmission in schools

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is urging the government for more support after the Saskatchewan Health Authority reported that around 23 per cent of COVID-19 transmission in school-aged children is happening in schools.

Saskatchewan Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Saqib Shahab said despite these numbers, the focus is on keeping students in schools for their own wellbeing.

“Compared to last year, less schools are going online,” Saskatchewan’s top doctor said Wednesday.

“There’s less disruption and children are able to do a lot of activities in school including sports and after school amenities.”

Read more: COVID-19: Top Saskatchewan doctor breaks down while presenting modelling

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The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation doesn’t agree, though. STF officials claim schools are given a lack of information about cases and say the majority of contact tracing is being done by faculty during off-work hours, largely based off of anecdotal information from families.

“We have situations where parents are reporting that they’ve been contacted that a student is positive,” said STF president Patrick Maze.

“We’re not getting the message in our schools and we’re having situations where the friends of those students we know are close contacts aren’t getting letters for a week or two later.”

Read more: Saskatchewan premier apologizes to those left without health care due to COVID-19

The STF wants to partner with the government and reinstate the Education Response Planning Team to get clearer and more timely data on COVID-19 in schools.

Maze says they primarily want better communication on how to stop the spread.

“We know that there is transmission in schools,” Maze said. “But the problem is the health system seems so overwhelmed that we’re not getting that information until sometimes weeks later.”

Read more: Parent, Sask. teachers call for more communication around COVID-19 in schools

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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 managed without halting in-person learning.

He said school boards, government and public health officials have had weekly meetings and updates.

Read more: COVID-19: Sask. Party not considering vaccine mandate despite criticism from opposition

Shahab’s main message to parents and students at Wednesday’s briefing was that the focus should continue to be on getting eligible family members vaccinated to protect younger students in schools and daycares.

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