Regina school divisions not regularly provided with COVID-19 data used to make decisions: internal email

·3 min read
Regina school divisions not regularly provided with COVID-19 data used to make decisions: internal email
Cleaning supplies sit on a table at Campbell Collegiate in Regina.  (CBC - image credit)
Cleaning supplies sit on a table at Campbell Collegiate in Regina. (CBC - image credit)

As parents and students in Regina prepare for most schools to return to in-person classes next week, an internal email is providing a better understanding of the process that led to that decision.

The email, written by Regina Public School (RPS) director of education Greg Enion and addressed to teachers, says that the division is not regularly provided with the data that prompted the decision to return to class.

"We are disappointed and frustrated that this data is not regularly shared with the public, or even with us," Enion writes.

The majority of Catholic and public schools in Regina will be returning to the in-person classes on May 3, the school divisions announced late on Monday.

Regina public schools told CBC that the decision was made by "the senior administration of Regina Public Schools and supported by the Regina Board of Education."

Regina Catholic schools told CBC its board of trustees "voted on a recommendation which was based on meetings between our Senior Leadership Team and the Local Medical Health Officers, and the availability of staff."

Those decisions to go back has drawn flack from students and parents, as well as an epidemiologist with the University of Saskatchewan.

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition created by Dawn Barker calling for school divisions to keep children out of schools until the science says it is safe.

Barker told CBC's Morning Edition that she has been supporting her 11-year-old grandson through online learning even as she has juggled her own online studies.

"I understand that not everybody can do online learning, and we are very fortunate to have been able to do that. But something has to be done to protect these teachers."

The school districts told CBC earlier this week it does not have a specific metric guiding their decision to return to in-person learning.

However, RPS said it had information that "indicate[s] a distinct reduction in [cases among] school aged students."

That data isn't publicly available; only publicly provides a province-wide age breakdown for cases, with no region-specific age information.

A request to review the data provided to Regina school division with the Saskatchewan Health Authority had gone unanswered as of this story's publication.

The email sent to teachers begins by saying what parents and students have told CBC this week: that a return to in-person classes on Monday appears premature "based on the data that we all see on media and social media."

However, Enion goes on to provide the school division's rationale for the decision. He writes that the school division relied on the advice of medical health officers.

"These are the medical professionals that gave us advice, on several occasions, to move to remote learning. These are the same medical professionals that recommended the move back to class on Monday. These decisions have been supported by our Board of Education," he writes.

Enion also writes that test positivity — the rate of positive cases among people tested — remains high, but that overall testing rates decreased in the past weeks. The specific time period isn't provided.

He writes that the Regina medical health officials wrote to him to say the reduction suggests that people who are either symptomatic or feel they had a high risk of recent exposures are the people who were most likely to get tested.

The officials wrote that transmission in schools is a rarity and not the norm, and that most cases are acquired in the community or homes, Enion writes.

Enion admits that many people are calling to see the data, but says the school division doesn't create or own the data.

He writes that he has attended COVID-19 briefings regularly and has consistently heard that the decision to "return to in-class learning is prudent."

Requests to interview Enion on camera this week have been denied.

RPS and Regina Catholic Schools have said they continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will not hesitate to return to distanced education if the trajectory of the pandemic in Saskatchewan changes.