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Saskatoon co-operative school offering safe environment for immunocompromised families


When the pandemic hit, parents were faced with the decision to keep their children in schools or not.

Now heading into a new school year a group of mothers with immunocompromised children came together with the idea to start a school with a safe environment for those with compromised immunities.

“It’s trying to find a collective of like-minded families in terms of risk tolerance, to create a safer environment for children from immunocompromised families,” ART president Kath Stevenson told CTV.

It is called the ART Co-operative School, ART stands for At Risk Together, with the simple goal in mind to help children learn in a safe environment.

Stevenson has a son with primary B-cell deficiency and Down Syndrome, so she knows all the ins and outs of the difficulties parents with an immunocompromised child face in the public school system, even before COVID-19 reached Canada.

“When we were in the regular system, we were regularly admitted to hospital or emergency about every four to six weeks. Through course of his first five-and-a-half years he missed about 50 per cent of the days he should have been in daycare or preschool,” Stevenson told CTV.

ART has a location where classes will be taken place, and different precautions will be in place to keep the children safe such as strict screening and illness policies, testing, gold standard ventilation, cleaning and hygiene protocols, HEPA filtration, and an outdoor learning focus.

However, the school is not just for children who are immunocompromised, Stevenson said it is also for families with an immunocompromised member concerned about children bringing home any illnesses from public schools, such as parents going through chemotherapy.

Krysta Shacklock, ART vice-president, also knows what it's like to have a child with a compromised immune system.

Shacklock’s daughter has gone through years of chemotherapy, leaving her immune system weak, but she is now healthy, but that wont stop Shacklock from starting this school for others in the position she was once in.

“She couldn’t go into kindergarten in the fall, and that was a really hard conversation I had to have with her because she was very excited to go to a big school,” Shacklock told CTV.

“If there was a place where I knew she could have gone to get social interaction, and families kind of had a similar understanding of what we are going through, I would have jumped on it.“

Shacklock said she is excited to be part of something like this, helping parents avoid difficult conversations about why their kids can’t go back to school.

“It’s really hard to explain to a little person that it’s not safe out there,” Shacklock said.

Shacklock and Stevenson were connected through a mutual friend who saw the pair going through similar situations, and from there the gears started turning to create the ART Co-operative school.

The school teaches using the Montessori method, which allows the kids to learn in a self-directed, hands-on way. 

The school offers spots for five preschool children and three part-time school-aged children with a max of six families.

ART is hoping to launch this fall and there are still limit spaces available. Top Stories

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