'They’re being pretty wishy washy': Sask. government leaves mandatory mask policies up to school divisions
SASKATOON -- The Ministry of Education released guidelines for schools in the province wanting to make masks mandatory, but is leaving it up to individual school divisions to decide whether or not to implement them.
Franny Rawlyk, a parent with two young kids, said she wants the province to take a firm stand on making masks mandatory in schools.
“I think that they could be doing a lot more to give a bit more guidance. They’re being pretty wishy washy and it seems like they’re just offloading the problem onto each school division,” she told CTV News.
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Rawlyk said while it’s important for people to be flexible and adapt to changes, the province needs to put more mandatory measures in place.
“Going in with a little bit more certainty would be more reassuring than what we have currently have,” she said.
On Tuesday, the province outlined how school divisions should make masks mandatory by moving to Level 2 of the Safe Schools Plan.
If schools choose to go that route, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said students in Grades 4 to 12 should wear a mask in high traffic areas such as hallways and on buses.
That plan also recommends students in Grades 9 to 12 wear masks in classrooms where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing or where students are outside of the cohort within their classroom. This also applies to teachers and staff.
However, the final decision on whether to move in this direction is being left up to the province’s 27 school divisions.
"Every school is different and every school division is different and we really think in terms of ensuring that there is adequate protection by students, that the local school divisions in concert with their local health officers will be the best ones to determine where masks are appropriate and where they're not,” said Education Minister Gordon Wyant.
The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools Division said it will be implementing the use of masks consistent with the directions outlined by the province, adding that’s in alignment with its initial Return-to-School plan where masks are strongly encouraged.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said it remains concerned about the inconsistency between school re-opening plans and the guidelines provided in other sectors.
“In a time of crisis, we should be able to rely on public heath directives, rather than suggestions, to ensure a healthy and safe return to school. We had hoped for a more definitive response and consistent approach across the province, said STF President Patrick Maze in a statement.
He also said that planning and implementation will be difficult as there are only three weeks until school starts.
The province said it has obtained six million disposable masks for schools in the province, with a cash injection of $2.3 million.
These masks will be made available to students, teachers and staff at the beginning of the school year on a daily basis.
The province’s Chief Medical Health Officer has also directed all school divisions to look at cohorting teachers to a limited number of students and keeping students in one cohort as much as possible.
It is also recommended that there are staggered start times, breaks and end times where possible.