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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Petition calling for better back-to-school plan in Saskatchewan gets over 16,200 signatures

The petition has gained remarkable support in just a few days.

Public school in Saskatoon.

A petition launched by Kirsten J. Fisher and Charles W. Smith that takes the government of Saskatchewan to task for its school reopening plan has garnered over 16,200 signatures in just a few days, a remarkable level of support.

From British Columbia to Ontario, provincial back-to-school plans for the fall have faced much scrutiny and criticism for not doing enough to ensure physical distancing with smaller class sizes as well as for other serious safety issues. While the coronavirus is under greater control than it was when school boards started closing in March, there is considerable evidence that reckless reopenings could lead to renewed outbreaks which would undo any progress made and lead to illness and death.

The petition points to the disastrous results of school reopenings in Israel as well as incidents in Georgia. Just today CNN reports that in the United States more "than 97,000 children tested positive for Covid-19 in the last two weeks of July" showing that children can act to widely spread the pandemic.

Despite this, according to the petition, in the plan released by the government of Saskatchewan on August 4th:

...the government provided no concrete strategy to address class sizes and safe physical distancing or to give parents options for in-person or remote learning. The province also did not clearly outline alternatives for immune compromised students. Contrary to many other provincial plans, the Saskatchewan government did not even introduce a policy requiring masks as students and teachers return to classrooms in September. The Minister’s decision to start the school year “as close to normal as possible” doesn’t appear to be grounded in the reality of the world’s worst health emergency in over 100 years.
The current plan seems to be that students and staff will be returning to classrooms that are overcrowded and where teachers, substitute teachers, students, and staff will be in close contact with one another.

The petition notes that if the plan goes awry:

Parents will bear the brunt of these risks. Not all parents can afford the luxury of home-schooling or extended sick days if schools shut down again in response to rising infection rates. Communities that have been hardest-hit by Covid due to socio-economic inequities or racial injustices will once again bear the brunt of these reactive decisions.

As a result they are demanding:

· Most importantly, everything possible must be done to reduce class sizes to maintain safe and effective physical distancing.
· Students should be provided with face coverings as needed, and there should be a government policy recommending face coverings in order to avoid school transmissions, (and in the absence of a policy requiring face coverings, consideration should be given to the potential social cost of bullying or ostracizing of children who choose to wear masks in the absence of a clear policy).
· We need a plan for Covid-19 testing in schools, equipping schools with appropriate tools.
· Students, families, teachers, and staff must be assured they will be given the most up-to-date information about possible outbreaks in schools; schools and parents must have an efficient and reliable means of timely communication.
· Teachers, support staff, and maintenance workers must be provided with appropriate PPE and training in how to assist children with face coverings and other safety protocols, including discussions about how to talk to children about compliance.
· The province must commit to spending the appropriate funds to protect workers and children in schools. The current lack of funding does not adequately recognize the crisis that we are in.

You can read, share, sign and/or support the petition in other ways at: Saskatchewan Needs a Better Back-To-School Plan



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