Saskatoon schools can resume in-person classes in September
SASKATOON -- On Tuesday the provincial government announced in-classroom learning will resume during the upcoming school year.
Classes were suspended for Prekindergarten through Grade 12 students on March 20 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our classrooms will again be a place of teaching, learning, and community for students across Saskatchewan," .Gordon Wyant, the province's education minister, said in a news conference in Regina.
Under the plan, divisions will be permitted to begin offering in-person classes at the scheduled start of the school year, which is Sept. 1 for both Saskatoon Public Schools and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
The Ministry of Education is working with Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer to develop health guidelines to be put in place when students return to class.
The guidelines could be distributed to school divisions as early as next week, according to the province.
The Education Response Planning Team, which includes representation from the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and Saskatchewan School Boards Association, is also providing input on the guidelines.
Wyant said measures such as separate entrances, as well as staggering classes are up for consideration and that it will be important to provide a safe learning and working environment when students and teachers return to the classroom.
“We think that in-class learning is the best way for children to gain their education,” said Wyant. “Notwithstanding the fact that we’ve had some success with online learning and other delivery models over the last number of months.”
Wyant says there will be a focus on reducing the risk of transmission through physical distancing and minimizing physical contact, but there will be contingency plans if there’s a spike in cases.
“Depending on what the infection rates are, we will have to readjust and we’ll have to reconsider some of the contingency plans that we have in place,” he said.
An alternate delivery model will be in place for students who are unable or do not feel safe returning to class, he said.
During the news conference, Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab said a return to school should look as normal as possible, and that the virus behaves differently with children.
“Children don’t really get that sick with COVID for the most part and don’t transmit that well either,” he said, adding that there will be additional precautions like hand-washing and keeping students and staff at home if they’re sick.
“We really don’t want to necessarily go into full lockdown as we did in March and April,” he said. “We need to look at transmission trends, which is the sector causing the transmission, and we also need to think about maybe in the fall, once we see an increase in transmission, making more use of personal protection like masks in the home setting.”
Shahab said provincial officials have been observing the reopening of schools in Australia, which had similar transmission rates to Saskatchewan.
“We have been reassured by the fact that they have not seen large-scale transmission in the school setting,” he said.
“Australia and Southeast Asia, they have been able to open, with low transmission, more or less in a regular fashion with usual class sizes, but some attention to physical distancing and those kinds of measures.”
With files from CTV News Regina and Josh Lynn