Child wearing maskThe Government of Saskatchewan’s latest tweaks to the Safe School Plan ignores expert advice and the concerns of many staff, parents, and students says CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee.

In the last week, the Public Health Officer of Canada came out with recommendations that students over the age of 10 wear masks, that students and teachers stay two metres apart wherever possible, and that students and teachers be grouped together to reduce the number of people they come into close contact with. This advice is echoed by physician organizations in Saskatchewan and across the country.

“The Ministry of Education is ignoring expert advice and passing the buck to school divisions,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of CUPE’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Why is the government refusing to do their job – be strong leaders when it comes to keeping our students and staff safe?”

CUPE is also concerned about the lack of engagement with support staff.

“First, they excluded support staff from the planning process, and we continue to be ignored from government announcements,” added Christianson. “Where are the guidelines for educational assistants who support students in multiple classrooms? There are no details regarding the caretakers who will be responsible for the enhanced cleaning in our schools. What about substitutes, our library assistants, or community school coordinators?  It is unacceptable that there are so many unanswered safety questions for support staff with less than two weeks remaining before most staff return to work.”

CUPE is echoing the calls for a more robust plan, which would include:

  • Mandatory masking for all students and staff at all times while in school, and separate cohorts for students unable to wear masks for medical reasons.
  • Physical distancing of two metres required for staff and students.  Online and/or distance learning to be implemented to ensure student learning is achieved when not in school.
  • Enhanced hygiene for students and staff to access for handwashing.
  • Enhanced school ventilation air exchange/HVAC system to reduce COVID-19 aerosol transmissions.
  • Emergency pandemic funding.

CUPE is calling for the government to ensure that there is enough staff to implement their enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Christianson concluded, “COVID-19 cannot be compared to lice or pink eye. What will it take for our government to come up with an actual safe plan for all students and staff returning to school in less than two weeks?”