Regina-area school divisions unite in call for COVID-19 vaccines before return to classroom

·2 min read
Adam Hicks, board chair for Regina Public Schools, said he hopes students and staff will be able to return to class on April 26, but extending remote learning isn’t off the table.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Adam Hicks, board chair for Regina Public Schools, said he hopes students and staff will be able to return to class on April 26, but extending remote learning isn’t off the table. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

School divisions in the Regina area joining forces in calling for school staff to be vaccinated before returning to in-person schooling.

Regina Public Schools, Regina Catholic School Division and the Prairie Valley School Division are sending letters to the Saskatchewan Health Authority asking for school staff to be vaccinated before in-person classes are set to resume on April 26.

"We know as educators that students learn better in the classroom. But not only that, we know that there are hardships created for thousands of families in our city when we do e-learning," said Adam Hicks, board chair for Regina Public Schools.

"If all of our staff can get vaccinated sooner, we might be able to get children back into the classroom sooner than if we don't get them vaccinated."

Each school board voted in favour of sending the letters during their respective meetings this week, citing Regina as a hot spot for coronavirus variants of concern.

Hicks said getting school staff vaccinated would not only help keep students safe, but also the broader community.

The school divisions said in March that their students would move to online learning for two weeks, amid concerns over rising numbers of cases involving variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They extended the remote learning period later that month.

'We're hoping that the province is listening'

Hicks said RPS alone has about 2,400 workers and 24,000 students, along with 58 buildings, which means the division impacts 12 per cent of the city's population when schools are operational.

However, he said that number could be around 30 to 40 per cent if one factors in parents and caregivers with kids in RPS.

"We're hoping that the province is listening," he said.

"We're not saying that our teachers, or support staff, or our division staff are any more important than others, but we believe that the impact is great for our city."

Hicks said each division could handle the logistics of getting its workers vaccinated as well, including contact tracing on nights, weekends and statutory holidays.

"We have a better chance to make this easier for everybody, including the economy, including parents that are struggling at home right now," he said.

Hicks said he hopes students and staff will be able to return to class on the scheduled date, but extending remote learning again isn't off the table.