Unvaccinated students a concern as Saskatoon teachers get first look at 2021-22 school plan
SASKATOON -- According to the head of the Saskatoon Teachers' Association (STA), many educators have one major concern with the provincial government's plan for the upcoming school year.
The Government of Saskatchewan's "Safe Schools Plan" for the 2021-22 school year was made public earlier this week.
The document, which consists of three pages, emphasizes the importance of people getting vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.
In keeping with the general reopening of the province, the plan will not require masking, physical distancing or other COVID-19 measures during the upcoming school year.
The plan does provide some latitude for "locally-tailored approaches" with the guidance of a medical health officer if required.
STA president John McGettigan said vaccine uptake is high for his association's members.
However, teachers are concerned about the potential risks faced by students not yet eligible for vaccination.
"I would say 95, maybe higher, per cent of my teachers are vaccinated, so now I think the concern is about those that aren't … kids that are that are in our classrooms that aren't protected like we are," McGettigan said.
“I have crossed my fingers that really soon, maybe as soon as September, is that five to 12-year-olds are eligible and then we can do something similar as we did in our high schools in the spring, or we can have vaccination clinics in our elementary schools for those kids that are five to 12.”
McGettigan says a safe return to schools for students and teachers will largely come down to the school divisions.
“The one thing that I think I'm most proud of is that our teachers work for two school divisions that trust experts,” he said.
“Over the last academic year, the reliance we placed on our local medical health officers that are experts in public health, was really reassuring and any decisions that our school divisions made were based on that advice," McGettigan said.
“That will obviously continue in the future, and that high level of trust between health and education and the links that were built are absolutely critical moving forward.”
Although there are concerns, McGettigan says there is also excitement about in-person learning in the fall.
“Those things we missed out on, like freshee football games, Christmas concerts, kindergarten teas, all those sorts of things are things that we really missed,” he said.
“Maybe the biggest thing is being able to get together as staff, being able to look each other in the eyes over a cup of coffee about a student that we know we can help, or meeting face to face with a parent who's struggling with their kid.”