Students, staff and visitors in North East School Division (NESD) schools are recommended to wear masks in common areas, regardless of immunization status.
The recommendation comes with the NESD’s adoption of the Ministry of Education’s provincial Safe School plan which is providing consistent guidance on how the upcoming school year will look throughout the province.
Don Rempel, NESD’s director of education, said masking is one aspect of the plan that will differ from division to division.
“That’s the one nuance,” Rempel said.
“You’ll see variances across the province as far as large urbans with high density schools with high numbers might use the language of ‘recommend’ or ‘strongly recommend’ or ‘required’ and you’re seeing other school districts that have other configurations of smaller schools with lots of distancing and small numbers available to them ‘recommending.’
In the NESD, schools will adopt a mask friendly approach in all settings.
This means it is recommended, but not required, that students and staff wear masks in common spaces such as hallways, washrooms, lunchrooms, libraries, and school buses. Visitors are also recommended to wear a mask.
Once students are seated in their classrooms, they can remove their masks. For outdoor activities such as recess or outdoor gym classes, there is no recommendation for students to mask.
As per the province’s plan, promotion of appropriate hand hygiene shall continue.
There are no guidelines for physical distancing for students or staff; however the division notes it is prudent to maintain as much physical distancing as possible, and seating plans must be consistent and available if requested.
The full Saskatchewan curriculum will be taught by teachers with contingency plans in place for remote learning must be in place in case of a need to isolate upon direction from Public Health. These plans include being prepared to move to blended or full-time remote delivery using Google Classroom in Grades K-4 and Moodle courses in Grades 5-12.
Sport teams and school clubs including dance, drama, band and choir are planned to resume regular activities, as well as field trips.
For outdoor activities such as recess or outdoor gym classes, there is no recommendation for students to mask.
Nutrition programs will resume with a continued practice of controlling areas where children are preparing food or eating. This is planned to be done with hand hygiene, cleaning, and sanitation of food surfaces.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority will offer school targeted COVID-19 vaccination clinics like those offered at the end of the last school year intended to enhance vaccine accessibility for those students or staff who have not been vaccinated.
As an additional measure to increase the reach of vaccinations, any individuals turning 12 in the current year are immediately eligible for the vaccination.
For contact tracing and quarantining, collaboration between the Saskatchewan Health Authority and schools will continue, and unvaccinated close contacts may be directed to self-isolate as deemed appropriate by Public Health.
Rempel said this is one part of the policy families will find consistent across the province
“There is real consistency across the province in that illness and care, that students, staff and family who are ill should stay home,” he said.
“If a student becomes ill we isolate the student until the family is able to pick them up, and we found that is probably the primary intervention – that if our schools are safe and healthy, because we don’t have sick students or staff or people who are systematic, that goes a long way with our families to have safe school environments.”
The North East School Division’s 2021-22 budget includes pandemic related costs for 9.5 full time equivalent additional caretakers in the schools; additional sanitation supplies; face masks; hand sanitizer; additional teacher in the online program to help support core credit attainment; and professional development that assists with mental wellness of staff.
A total of up to $50,000 remaining in pandemic support funding available to spend during the 2020-21 fiscal year has been allocated to go into school welcome and sanitation stations at the entrance of every school, as well as leader wellness training for school administrators time to collaborate and connect each month in their administrative pods.
“We’re going to be providing opportunities for school administrators to consult with each other,” Rempel explained.
“There’s times that rather than having big meetings where you bring your principals together, it’s better to have small pods of administrators be able to consult with each other in groups through team meetings, etcetera. The cost would be a little bit of release time for principals to work as part of the leadership team.”
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal