The start of the 2021/22 school year has been a topic of controversy lately as families appear to be torn when it comes to the safe school plans that are in place. The Government of Saskatchewan is not requiring any specific prevention measures for COVID-19 within schools, and instead has given the individual school divisions the option to decide on what practices to utilize within the schools to keep everyone safe; however, in a news release, there was information provided with guidance on masking and case identification.
Because there is no COVID-19 vaccination currently approved for children under the age of 12, the Government of Saskatchewan recommends that children under 12, and unvaccinated teachers and support staff wear masks in common spaces such as hallways, washrooms, lunchrooms, libraries and school buses. Once seated in their classrooms, masks can be removed. Outdoor activities will not require masks. As information and vaccine availability changes, these recommendations will be revisited and modified as required at the time.
When it comes to cases being identified within the schools, school divisions will continue to be notified by public health officials in order to inform students and parents, and contact tracing will continue to occur. Unvaccinated close contacts may be directed to self-isolate as deemed appropriate by public health.
There will be school-based vaccination clinics offered by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, which will provide accessibility for students and staff who have not been vaccinated, or who have received their first dose only. Individuals that will be turning 12 this year are immediately eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, regardless of their actual birth date.
For PSSD, Director of Education Darryl Bazylak, provided a letter to families which included a lay-out of their back-to-school plan. PSSD will be following recommendations from local Medical Health Officers and the provincial government. The PSSD school year will begin September 1, and will offer in-class, daily learning with several safety protocols in place to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. “Our focus continues to be on the safety and well-being of students and staff members,” Bazylak said.
PSSD will have mask requirements for any students born in 2010 or later as well as older students who are in the same cohort as these students. Additionally, students and bus drivers will be required to wear masks while on PSSD buses, and buses will be cleaned and sanitized regularly and will follow assigned seating plans. Masks will not be required for outdoor activities.
If a staff or student have any COVID-19 symptoms, they are expected to stay home and when a positive case does occur, contact tracing will be practiced. Visitors to schools will be able to access the school building this year, following a personal pre-screening and mask requirement.
There will also be alternate options available aside from in-person learning. These measures may change as the school-year progresses, depending on the current situation. More information and safety measures regarding the start to the 2021/22 PSSD school year can be found by visiting www.spiritsd.ca.
“We are looking forward to a new school year with a continued strong focus on student learning in Prairie Spirit schools. We want to ensure a smooth transition for everyone at the start of this new year. We are committed to providing regular updates to parents. Thank you for your patience and support,” Bazylak added.
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) also shared their 2021/22 Safe School Plan this week, which included a four-level system. Level one consists of pre-pandemic in-class learning, level two is full in-class learning with safety protocols in place, level three is reduced in-class learning and level four is distance learning for all students. Following consultations with local Medical Health Officers, GSCS will be starting the year at Level 2.
This plan means that typical COVID-19 measures will remain in place such as self-screening, good hand hygiene, online education options, etc.
Masks will be required for students, staff and visitors within the elementary areas of GSCS schools, and are recommended for high school students, staff and visitors, especially in common areas.
Strict cohorts are not required; however, schools may choose to cohort students at specific times such as recess or lunch.
Buses will include seating plans with mask requirements and will be sanitized on a daily basis.
“We’re looking forward to a new school that looks more normal or typical compared to last year. We’re happy to be able to welcome parents and families back into schools, and resume things like extra-curricular activities, and have in-person meetings and professional development. We know the pandemic isn’t over yet, so based on the advice and guidance of local medical health officers, we’re maintaining various layers of measures to help keep students and staff safe. We’re optimistic going into the new school year, but we’re also prepared to change as needed depending on what happens in our communities,” Derrick Kunz, GSCS Communications Consultant, stated.
More information about the GSCS Safe School Plan can be found by visiting www.gscs.ca.