Official Opposition Critic for Education Urges Prioritization

·3 min read

COVID-19 and its variants are going strong but our school kids are not, as some school divisions are forced to move to online schooling.

Carla Beck, the Official Opposition Critic for Education, sent the Minister of Education Dustin Duncan a letter urgently calling on the government to prioritize – with actions rather than words – keeping schools open, keeping staff and students in the schools safe, and getting community transmission under control.

Variants of Concern have begun to spread rapidly, forcing more and more school divisions online. This has caused concerns among parents and teachers about the lack of resources accessible to students and families as they shift back to remote learning.

The Official Opposition is urging the Minister and this Sask. Party government to:

Carla Beck, M.L.A. Regina Lakeview Constituency Official Opposition Critic for Early Learning, Childcare, and Education, wrote, “As we see additional school divisions extend online learning after the Easter Break due to the troubling rise of Variants of Concern (VOCs) in their communities, I urge you and your caucus colleagues to fully support school divisions in making and communicating their difficult decisions.”

She asked Minister Duncan, “I implore your government to prioritize - with actions rather than words – keeping schools open, keeping staff and students in the schools safe, and getting community transmission under control. The approach is taken to date - waiting on vaccines rather than implementing proactive science-based measures, not only risks ending the school year but most importantly it also risks further illness among students and school staff and potential loss of life. This pandemic has already taken an immense toll on Saskatchewan children and widened the disparities between them. I urge your Ministry and government to work with school divisions to identify students who do not have access to online learning tools, provide additional support and resources as needed and work with the Minister responsible for SaskТel to ensure immediate access to the internet for all students and staff in the province. Use the Easter Break and finally get rapid testing off the ground and have Public Health officials reassess the Safe Schools Plan to ensure it is adequate in mitigating risks from VOCs. Work across ministries to ensure that children who have additional and complex needs receive the supports that they need while away from their classrooms. Expand access to timely mental health support to youth and school staff.”

Beck ended her letter by stating, “Our schools and our students need extra support and effort on the part of your government to give them every chance to safely finish out their year in class. I believe that this will require swift action to the calls and considerations above. We must use these next critical weeks wisely.”

Certain schools in our division must undergo more intensive and proactive measures such as moving to online learning, while others are able to stay open while following recommended provincial and division guidelines. Each school division is at a different stage of their COVID-19 response plans, and each school division will also face a challenge as students return after an Easter break where there is an increased chance of transmission after a long holiday.

Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal