'The numbers are out of control': Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation calls for universal masking, vaccine policies in schools
With COVID-19 case numbers in children under 12 increasing, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is calling for universal masking and vaccination policies in schools.
The province reported 104 new cases in the zero to 11 age group on Wednesday, with 101 reported the previous day, and the STF said this will continue unless something is changed.
“We still have some school divisions where masking is optional, especially at the high school level, and that’s just unacceptable,” said Patrick Maze, president of STF.
He said the STF is frustrated with the inconsistencies seen in the approach to the virus, with the isolation and masking rules changing depending on where a student is exposed.
“Clearly the high number of students who are contracting COVID-19 under the age of 11 is an indication that what we’re doing isn’t working,” said Maze. “The government restrictions aren’t going far enough and our children are being put at risk due to that.”
He said the two ways to improve safety in schools is a universal masking policy and a having everyone who is eligible for a vaccination required to do so.
“We need to make sure that we get out vaccine numbers up and the way to do that, asking people to do it isn’t working, we need stricter enforcement,” said Maze.
“I think we need to understand the numbers are out of control and we need to get serious about this.”
Safe Schools Saskatchewan is supporting Maze calling for the same change in policy.
Margi Corbett, one of the administrators of the Facebook group and a retired teacher, said their biggest concern is the “mismatch” of communication and difficult to follow guidelines.
Corbett said the “illogical” isolation and masking rules are hard to enforce by principals. For example, she said, a child who is deemed a close contact can attend class, but not participate in extra curricular activities.
She said she is hearing teachers are confused, frustrated and exhausted.
“They’re protecting our kids heroically, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the fact that the kids are endangered every day,” said Corbett, adding this danger can come home with them to immunocompromised and elderly family members.
Corbett is also a concerned grandmother and is grateful for the work teachers and daycare providers are doing.
Some daycares in the province have re-instated a masking policy in the recent days.
“We think that the more kids we can keep healthy, keep our staff teams healthy and the community, in a sense, the better chance we’ll have that we’re not going to have closures or partial closures to centres and more kids becoming sick and us not being able to provide care,” said Steve Compton, CEO at the YMCA of Regina.
The YMCA decided Tuesday to bring masks back for its staff and children in its childcare centre, as well as the before and after school programs, including those run in partner schools.
The YMCA is also encouraging those who are eligible to get vaccinated.
The ministers of education and health could not be reached for comment.