STF calls for Level 4 in all schools after Easter due to COVID-19

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze speaks in Prince Albert on Nov. 1, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

On Wednesday the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) called for the Government of Saskatchewan to move all schools to Level 4 (online) learning for a two-week period following the Easter Break, which began Friday.

Level 4 means all schools would transition to online, mandatory learning from Monday, April 12 through Friday, April 23.

“There is a steady increase of COVID-19 cases in schools across the province,” STF President Patrick Maze said in a release.

“This two-week period will serve as a buffer to help protect students, teachers and ultimately our communities in the event people travel or gather over the break.”

According to health officials, the variants are up to 70 percent more transmissible and 40 percent of youth are asymptomatic. Alberta’s chief medical health officer has also expressed concerns about higher risks from the COVID-19 variant when gathering outdoors.

“This isn’t just an issue in Regina and Moose Jaw. We are seeing an increase of cases throughout our province,” said Maze.

“Communities across Saskatchewan are interconnected. We have an opportunity to act before more communities experience what Regina and Moose Jaw are dealing with.”

An STF review of publicly available data from the Government of Saskatchewan shows; 90 outbreaks declared in schools between March 15 and 28, with 78 between March 20 and 28 alone, during the week of March 15 and 19, there were an average of 2.4 outbreaks declared, 8.7 declared on average per day since (up to March 28), Regina Public Schools and Regina Catholic School Division have declared 36 outbreaks since March 15, over half of Saskatchewan school divisions declared outbreaks between March 15 and 28. This data shows only known cases and therefore there are more unknown cases in the community. An outbreak is two or more cases in a setting where transmission cannot be attributed to a secondary location, such as a household.

Maze acknowledges that in-person learning is best and the preferred method but says planning ahead and moving to online learning in an orderly fashion, benefits everyone involved.

“Teachers, students and families will be able to prepare for the next few weeks and not be franticly trying to make alternate plans. Employers, including small businesses, also have an opportunity to plan ahead for staffing needs and minimize the negative impact of staffing challenges.”

Maze re-iterated his call to use all available tools, including rapid testing in schools, to help protect students, teachers, school staff and our communities by limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division moved to Level 4 before the Christmas and after the Christmas break in a similar move after consulting with local public health authorities.