REGINA -- Teachers will not be assigned to work at polling stations for the upcoming provincial election, after the idea was suggested by Elections Saskatchewan.

The province has approved a day off for schools on October 26, to accommodate physical distancing measures at polling stations inside the buildings.

With that in mind, Michael Boda, Saskatchewan’s Chief Electoral Officer, suggested teachers could help staff polling stations.

“We would simply encourage people to simply consider being involved and we think this is a great opportunity for social studies teachers for example to experience first hand how electoral processes are conducted,” he said.

COVID-19 has created several new obstacles for Elections Saskatchewan to navigate a provincial election in the fall. Additional polling stations will be necessary to help thin crowds and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Around 13,000 total staff will be required.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said classes may be out for the day, but it is not a holiday for teachers.

“I spoke directly to the Ministry of Education, the Chief Electoral Officer and school boards to affirm that teachers will not be mandated or assigned to work the election,” said Randy Schmaltz, the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. “Each organization has provided confirmation there is no intent to assign teachers to work at polling stations.”

Schmaltz said teachers are under contract and will be providing services to their school divisions, such as professional learning.

The government said teachers will not be required to work the polls. Either way, the NDP doesn’t think teachers working the election is a good idea.

“Still as a plan goes for how to staff elections, putting teachers in there doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’re talking about cohorting teachers and their students and then you want to expose them to hundreds of people walking through.”

The Chief Electoral Officer is still talking to school boards about giving some teachers the option to use their professional development day to learn about the voting process. There is also a plan to recruit senior high school students to help out at the polls.