More than 100 students from a Saskatoon high school are in self-isolation.
On Thursday, Veronica Baker, a spokesperson for the Saskatoon Public School Division, confirmed 107 students from Marion M. Graham Collegiate are in isolation, under direction from the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
It's not clear what grade the students are in, but Baker said the self-isolation applies to four classrooms at the high school. Students in the affected classes — almost a fifth of the school's 599 students — will transition to online learning.
Late last week, parents in Saskatoon were informed that any student in a classroom where a case of COVID-19 was recorded is now considered a close contact and will have to self-isolate. Previously, public health officials determined which students and staff were close contacts of a case.
A frequently asked questions document from Saskatoon Public said the change was made to manage increased caseloads and address "challenges of contacting everyone in a timely manner."
However, while tight restrictions are in place for Saskatoon schools and there have been some cases among students across the province, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says there have been "very few outbreaks."
"The last two and a half months have shown that all of the layers of protection that schools have have protected them from large transmission events within the school," said Dr. Saqib Shahab, adding most cases have been imported from the community.
He hopes new restrictions put in place on Wednesday, which include limiting team sports and making masks mandatory for anyone in schools, will stabilize the number of cases in schools and allow students to complete the fall term.
Shahab says while he understands there have been challenges for students, staff and parents, it seems measures being taken in schools are having an effect.
"I think so far schools have done extremely well and the credit really goes to the teachers, the staff in the school, the parents and the children themselves who have been following the protocols."
An assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan's college of education says while transitions from in-school to online learning have been challenging for everyone, they're in place to keep everyone safe, and it's important people continue to work together.
"We're definitely learning many lessons this year, and some of them are perhaps the most powerful lessons that we need to learn … which is that we, at a basic level, really need to take care of each other," said Paula MacDowell, who teaches educational technology and design.
MacDowell says parents and teachers need to work together with students as they attend school through the pandemic, which presents some opportunities among numerous challenges.
"For students who are at home, this is an opportunity where parents can also learn with their children," she said.
"We just have to make the best of things.… With every challenge there is also opportunity and there are ways we can innovate and do things different."
Earlier this week, Saskatchewan Minister of Education Dustin Duncan said school divisions across the province are working directly with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and local medical health officers to determine what restrictions are needed.
"School divisions have plans and procedures in place that allow for quick, responsive modifications to the delivery of education in their schools — if there is a need to move to a different level of the plan," Duncan said in a statement.
"As the situation with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan is fluid, the Saskatchewan Safe Schools plan provides consideration for changes, as needed."
As of Nov. 24, 2020 there were at least 125 cases of COVID-19 in schools across the province.
There were 299 new COVID-19 cases reported across Saskatchewan on Thursday, along with three more deaths due to the illness.