REGINA -- A recent survey by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) suggests most teachers are not confident schools can reopen safely in the fall.

The survey said concerns stem from the mental and physical health of students and staff; and technological supports.

The STF is concerned schools, that they say are already underfunded and overcrowded, need better guidelines to keep students and staff safe.

“We really need to, out of health’s sake, figure something out,” said STF president Patrick Maze. “We are suggesting some options like maybe in some communities rent the town hall down the road and run a few classes out of there, just to take some of the pressure off.”

Cecilia Prokop, a Regina parent, has been home full time with her two children since schools closed in March.

“I trust their school to do the absolute best that they can and the teachers to do the absolute best that they can,” explained Prokop. “But without the appropriate funding and support from our government and from our higher ups, there’s just literally only so much they can do.”

“I have the privilege that it is potentially an option for us to homeschool starting in the fall, and while it’s something that I never previously considered, pre-pandemic, it is on my mind now.”

The STF says distance learning is not ideal either as it is difficult to ensure all students have equal access to education.

“Some people would like to be having this conversation more but don’t have the privilege. They say ‘yeah I’m scared and I don’t want my kids to get sick and I don’t want to get sick but I have to go to work and so my kids have to be somewhere,’” said Prokop.

Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, points to other provinces, which ran schools in May and June, and daycares, which are currently operating in Saskatchewan, as signs school reopening will be fairly straightforward.

“For young children, it’s really important for them to be in that classroom environment, it’s really important for them to have as normal an environment as possible," said Shahab. "There can’t be a lot of stress on physical distancing, certainly for school children mask use in the classroom is not recommended, especially for young children.”

The province says an Education Response Planning Team, composed of representatives from public health and the ministry of education along with teachers, is working to provide school divisions with more precise directions by August.