Sask. parents say they want province to take action against Omicron transmission in schools

·4 min read
Alex Marz says the lack of restrictions as Omicron surges in Saskatchewan is concerning for his family, especially since they have an unvaccinated 11-month-old baby.  (Submitted by Alex Marz - image credit)
Alex Marz says the lack of restrictions as Omicron surges in Saskatchewan is concerning for his family, especially since they have an unvaccinated 11-month-old baby. (Submitted by Alex Marz - image credit)

On Wednesday the province released guidelines for parents and schools to follow in the event of COVID-19 transmission, but some parents say they aren't enough.

They say they want a plan and restrictions in place to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Unlike all other provinces, in-class learning will continue in Saskatchewan amid surging COVID-19 cases.

Tenille Lafontaine is a Regina mother of three and says that even though they went, she was not comfortable sending her children back to school earlier this week, despite them all being fully vaccinated.

She says the provincial COVID-19 press event about schools on Wednesday was disappointing.

"The term that was used a lot was 'disruptions in the classroom,'" she said. "I think that our government should call it what it is. It's not a disruption in the classroom. It is children infected with COVID. And words matter because that's the truth."

Education Minister Dustin Duncan said it's important to keep schools open.

"We know that in-class learning is critically important to students' overall mental and physical health and development," Duncan said at the news conference.

"That is why the government of Saskatchewan is supporting all students and staff in finding ways to reduce risk while we learn to live with COVID in our everyday lives."

Submitted by Tenille Lafontaine
Submitted by Tenille Lafontaine

Lafontaine says she wants to see a provincial plan that lays out exactly what will happen if Omicron case numbers surpass a certain point.

"We're watching numbers, we're watching hospitalizations. But as parents, we don't know going from one day to the next ... is there going to be an announcement? Do we need to plan to have kids at home?" said Lafontaine.

"So I would like to have some thresholds listed so that we have some numbers to watch and we have some sense of understanding of when things could change."

In the meantime, the province is asking staff and parents to report any positive test results to the school, whether it's with a PCR test or a rapid test.

Lafontaine doubts all parents will self-report.

"If a family is unvaccinated in January 2022, I don't hold out hope that those same families will self-report ... that they'll even take a rapid test to begin with."


Isolation guidelines

The province says schools will send a notification to parents if a child is considered a close contact. But the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) says that is a lot to put on the plates of schools.

"It's a complete recipe for disaster. Staff is going to burn out quickly," said Patrick Maze, president of the STF.

"Contact tracing is just one more thing on the plate. To me, asking teachers and principals to do contact tracing is a complete admission of the government that they are overwhelmed and have not handled this effectively."


The province released new isolation guidelines for students and staff who are potentially exposed inside schools.

Close contacts can attend school if they are fully-vaccinated and asymptomatic. Fully-vaccinated students and staff who test positive only have to isolate for five days, rather than 10.

In comparison, unvaccinated students have to stay home as close contacts and isolate for 10 days if they test positive.
However, the province admits this is all based on the honour system.

School staff members who are deemed a close contact and are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days following the last exposure to the virus.


Exposure to COVID-19

Alex Marz is a Regina father of three, including an 11-month baby. On the evening of his 16-year-old's first day back at school this week, Marz got the news that his son had been a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

"To be honest, I was just shocked. I mean, it took less than 24 hours for my son to be exposed to COVID-19. And there is nothing I could do about it. And so now I have an 11-month-old at home who was not able to be vaccinated."

Submitted by Alex Marz
Submitted by Alex Marz

Marz says he is concerned about his baby getting sick. He says that without further COVID-19 restrictions and plans in Saskatchewan, especially in schools, he does not feel that his family is safe.

"Why are we going out on our own? Not following the same health restrictions as in the provinces when we required federal help to get out of the bind in the fourth wave?" said Marz.

"To be frank, I'm shocked that they're still continuing on with education in the way they are. It's added a lot of pressure on our household and it's a really scary time as a parent."

In the meantime, the STF wants the province to provide N95 masks to all students and staff.

The province says school will continue as usual, but that it will continue to monitor Omicron cases and assess accordingly.

Submitted by Alex Marz
Submitted by Alex Marz
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