Spring break is over, however not all parents are sending their children back to school.
Schools in Regina are doing remote learning until April 26 along with one school in Moose Jaw, the Prairie Valley School Division and the South East Cornerstone Public School Division. Almost all others returned to in-person learning today.
Kyle Anderson, a microbiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, is keeping his five children out of school while he's working from home.
"I feel that I have an obligation to my community to keep my kids at home," Anderson told Saskatoon Morning. "And if I keep my kids at home, I can make that a safer environment, not just for my kids, but for everyone in that school."
Anderson said that he was concerned because case numbers in Saskatoon have increased threefold and every long weekend or break — including Thanksgiving and Christmas — led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"We know that over the break with relaxed bubbles, kids, families were getting together. So there's a much higher chance that people might be in that early infectious period," Anderson said. "We've got kids who might be bringing COVID, especially variants, into the schools."
Anderson said by keeping his students home, it means there could be more distance between students in schools. He said it's about doing things proactively, as the variants are reportedly 50 to 60 per cent more transmissible.
"There have been something like 70 schools with outbreaks in the last month in Saskatchewan," he said. "We are seeing more school outbreaks and we are seeing larger outbreaks in schools, not just in Saskatchewan, but across the country."
Anderson said he's privileged to be able to keep his students home, and any other parents able to should take the step.
'A very prudent perspective'
Many students are returning to in-person learning, including Sarah Broderick, a Grade 6 student at Brunskill Elementary School in Saskatoon.
"A lot of people in my class have gone online, so we're kind of the smallest class in the entire school," Sarah said.
They take precautions such as playing tag with long pool noodles and keeping their distance, she said. Gordon Broderick, her father is a medical researcher. The family had recently moved to Saskatoon from New York State.
Broderick said it was a tough decision to send her and her brother to school for in-person learning at the beginning of the year, but it's been going well and improved their physcial and mental health.
"We were coming at it from a very prudent perspective. However, Sarah is a very social child. She forms friendships quickly. She's that kid in the schoolyard that will reach out to a child that's been left out of the playgroup," Broderick said.
"For her, these social connections were especially important and I think at the end of the day, what won out was the balance between mental health and physical health," he said. "It's a calculated risk."
Broderick said his family felt that the precautions at the school was strong, they had already been feeling isolated due to the move and he's impressed by the staff enforcing distancing and masking and the students have stepped up to be safe.
"It's been a very positive experience for us," he said. "For her, it really is where she needs to be."
It's not without anxieties though. Broderick said the family has been doing a lot of self-care and COVID safe exercise. Broderick said he's closely watching the news, intensive care unit numbers and age breakdown of cases. If there are further cases in the under 19 age group, or outbreaks, then the family will re-evaluate their plan, he said.
"I think we're all on the same page there. We want what's best for the kids."