'An opportunity to feel safer': Regina school divisions call for staff to be vaccinated
REGINA -- In-person learning at Regina schools is set to resume in less than two weeks, but with more than 900 active COVID-19 cases in the region, there are growing calls to vaccinate school staff before they return to class.
The Regina Public, Catholic and Prairie Valley School Divisions have sent letters to the provincial government calling for school staff to be vaccinated before going back to the classroom on April 26.
"The vaccinations would give them an opportunity to feel safer an be there for our students," Vicky Bonnell, board chair for the Regina Catholic School Division, said.
Students in the three divisions have been learning from home since the last week of March due to the increased spread of variants of concerns in the area.
"We know that students learn better in the classrooms," Adam Hicks, board chair for the Regina Public School Division, said. "Our staff are doing amazing jobs to help them during this e-learning time but lots of students and families don’t have the resources."
There are 2,400 staff working at Regina Public Schools, while the Catholic Division has around 1,200 staff that would need to be vaccinated.
Hicks said vaccinating the staff could have a huge impact in the city.
"We have 58 buildings and about 12 per cent of citizens are coming into it, that’s about 24,000 students and about 2,400 staff and when you think about the parents and family members of all those people, it’s about 30-40 per cent of our city," he said.
To help facility the vaccination of staff, the school divisions are offering support to the government.
"We’ve built capacity around our staff on nights, weekends and stats, managing and helping health with COVID contact tracing, what we’re willing to do is take that capacity and we will help manage and administer the logistics behind getting our staff this vaccine," Hicks said.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said the government isn’t considering vaccinating school staff at this time. He notes that 20 per cent of teachers in Regina are already eligible to receive a vaccine dose.
"Once we get to the 40s, 40-41, I’ve been told that almost 60 per cent of the teachers will be eligible to get their vaccine at that point in time," Merriman said.
The Opposition NDP said it’s at a loss for words why the government won’t prioritize school staff.
"We’re asking essentially the same thing we’ve been asking since August and that is that we do everything we can to prioritize keeping schools open," NDP Education Critic Carla Beck said.
Vaccinations or no vaccinations, the school divisions are still working towards returning to in-person learning on April 26. Both board chairs said they will follow the guidance of public health officials on whether it’s safe to do so at that time.