Sask. schools seek safety supplies in preparation for returning students
REGINA -- The start of a new but different looking school year is only six weeks away, and two school divisions so far have issued tenders for pandemic-related supplies.
Regina Public Schools is looking to secure thousands of litres of hand sanitizer and 70 airless disinfectant sprayers.
In a statement to CTV News, Regina Public Schools said it’s also looking at protective screens, water bottle fillers and potentially air purifying systems for the upcoming school year.
“The number and distribution of these items will be tied to school enrolment/size and staff numbers, and will coincide with the Fall 2020 School Reopening Plan,” the statement said. “Staff training for the appropriate use of the PPE and other safety supplies is also part of the plan.”
The plan is still in draft form and is expected to be shared with staff and families later in August, according to the division.
The Prairie Valley School Division has also issued a tender for similar supplies, including masks and gloves for the first semester.
“Based on this direction and the cleaning requirements needed for next year, we have done our best to determine the product and staffing resources required to ensure that safe, clean, disinfected facilities are available and outlined in our current open tender for disinfectant products, hardware and PPE supplies,” the division said in a statement.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said the tendering of pandemic supplies is a good start, but it still has concerns over the return-to-class plans. As well, it’s concerned with potential costs.
“[The school divisions] will have to look at the offers and make sure that their budgets can afford the PPE that they’re looking to supply and source,” STF President Patrick Maze said.
The Ministry of Education said all school divisions and First Nations schools will have access to a separate PPE supplier contract.
The province is currently working on such contracts for all ministries and Crown corporations.
The ministry said school divisions aren’t obligated to access supplies from the provincial contracts, and that they can procure their own goods if they choose.
REVIEWS OF RETURN-TO-CLASS DRAFT PLANS NEARING COMPLETION
The Saskatchewan Education Response Planning Team is currently in the process of reviewing draft plans developed by school divisions. The plans are based on guidelines previously set out by the province.
The ministry expects to provide the divisions with feedback on their submitted plans before the end of July.
“Once divisions have been provided with feedback from the RPT on their draft plans, they are encouraged to share their return-to class plan with their local school communities,” the ministry said.
Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, says back-to-school plans will have to be flexible given the rapidly-changing landscape caused by COVID-19.
“We are still trying to learn exactly how to do this well because we haven’t done this. There’s no precedence for having done this and learn lessons from the past,” Muhajarine said. “We have to do it in order to learn which is going to work well or not and be able to tweak it when some steps are not working or it’s not necessary.”
All tenders that have been posted by the school divisions and the provincial government close by the end of July.