School Boards Association seeking more collaboration with Sask. government as students return to class
The president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) is hoping to see more collaboration between school officials and the Ministry of Education moving forward as in-class learning resumes.
The SSBA, which represents the 27 school divisions in the province, is calling for the Education Response Planning Team to be reinstated. Shawn Davidson, the SSBA president, said it would encourage conversations to happen on a weekly basis.
“That work is a table where all the education partners get together and can discuss some of the potential changes and response to the pandemic,” Davidson said. “We would like to see more collaborative work between the ministry, our organization, our boards and our education partners. When we work together to come up with the best outcomes for kids, that’s when things work best within our sector.”
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) is also calling on the province to reinstate the Education Response Planning Team and has been since September.
“It doesn’t mean that each partner is going to get their way necessarily, but at least being able to troubleshoot and any direction that is eventually decided on is properly implemented and implemented with student interest in mind,” Patrick Maze, the president of the STF, said. “Collaboration is really a cornerstone to a good education system and we are not seeing that collaboration in Saskatchewan.”
Both the SSBA and the STF said the response team would improve the communication between school officials and the province.
During a provincial press conference on Wednesday, Education Minister Dustin Duncan said the province consulted with school divisions about the Jan. 3 return to school plan.
“We have worked very closely with our school divisions and the SSBA and there was, from that group, there was certainly no interest that was expressed to extend the holiday break,” Duncan said.
Davidson said the SSBA does not know the extent of conversations between the Ministry of Education and individual school divisions regarding the return to school this week. He said from his perspective, there was not a high level of consultation with the SSBA.
“I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to characterize it as a robust conversation. From our standpoint, I don’t think we would characterize it as that,” he said. “But certainly we are asking for and looking for more of those kinds of conversations with our education partners and the ministry moving forward.”
Davidson said he was not informed if a delay following the holiday break was on the table.
“The plans to return to school in January were not altered from what they had previously set out to be,” he said. “We did not know if [the province] was considering any sort of a delay to the return to school.”
Davidson said the SSBA wants schools to remain open as they provide the best learning environment for student. He said the association will continue to work with medical health officials to ensure health and safety of students and staff.
Davidson said any parents that have concerns about the return to school should reach out to their local division. He said parents should have confidence that divisions are ensuring there are proper safety measures in place.
The Ministry of Education said at this time, it will continue its current practices.
“The Government of Saskatchewan continues to regularly meet with stakeholders in the education sector. Additionally, school divisions continue to work with the local medical health officers responding to local health risks in school settings,” the province said in an emailed statement.
It did not clarify if there has been any further consideration to reimplement the Education Response Planning Team.